Here is the most important autobiography from Renaissance Italy and one of the most spirited and colorful from any time or place, in a translation widely recognized as the most faithful to the energy and spirit of the original.
Benvenuto Cellini was both a beloved artist in sixteenth-century Florence and a passionate and temperamental man of action who was capable of brawling, theft, and murder. He counted popes, cardinals, kings, and dukes among his patrons and was the adoring friend of as he described them the divine Michelangelo and the marvelous Titian, but was as well known for his violent feuds. At age twenty-seven he helped defend the Castel Sant Angelo in Rome, and his account of his imprisonment there (under a mad castellan who thought he was a bat), his escape, recapture, and confinement in a cell of tarantulas and venomous worms is an adventure equal to any other in fact or fiction. But it is only one in a long life lived on a grand scale.
Cellini's autobiography is not merely the record of an extraordinary life but also a dramatic and evocative
account of daily life in Renaissance Italy, from its lowest taverns to its highest royal courts.
About the Author
James Fenton is a poet and critic. From 1994 to 1999 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford. He writes about poetry, art history, and gardening for the "New York Review of Books".