Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Cellini almost died by the head of Medusa
Cellini was a goldsmith and bronze sculptor from Florence. He was creating the famed Perseus and Medusa now in the Loggia of Florence. During the casting process he nearly died.
As he poured the molten metal into the cast of his Medusa and Perseus his studio caught fire. He and his assistants fought so hard to prevent it from burning down he caught a terrible fever. He lay in bed for three days fearful of death due to his fever.
One of his assistants came to him saying, "Poor Benvenuto (Cellini), all is lost." This news enraged Cellini. He let out a yell he claimed could be heard throughout Italy. He jumped from bed with his terrible fever to assess the damage to his statue.
The metal had cooled and didn't set properly. It has a rough look and almost looked as if it couldn't be saved. Cellini began to reheat the metal. He bought oak from a carpenter down the street and reheated the cast to a liquid. The damage done during the first pour reduced the amount of salvageable metal. As it turned to a liquid he knew he wouldn't have enough for the entire pour. He had his servants bring all the pewter in his entire house adding it to the molten liquid.
He worked so hard for so long that he forgot about his fever, his asssistants worked as hard doing the work of three men per person.
Cellini poured and saved his masterpiece.
He wrote about the entire process in his autobiography. It is one of the better reads about life and work in Renaissance Italy from the hand of a master.
The image of Cellini is from the walkway near the Uffizi in Florence.