Dominus Venustas

Art writer. Art reader. Art lover.
Art is a language. One that speaks of truth and of humanity. I am on a journey to discover the Masters of Art and shine a light on their greatness. By Jackie Honsig-Erlenburg

CelliniPerseus with the Head of Medusa, c.1545-54,bronze

After a long conversation about art my favourite thing is to read, research and look deeper into what was talked about. On this occasion, it was my mother who mentioned Benvenuto Cellini (…she constantly surprises me with her knowledge). She told me when she was a young girl she read his autobiography which she found fascinating, not to mention very amusing and full of exaggerations!

Perseus is of course one of Cellini’s most famous sculptures. It has the privileged position of overlooking Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Many wrote poems during his lifetime about the work. He was called a Florentine Orpheus who rewove the legends of antiquity. He was compared to a star which in the star-strewn sky outshone the other stars.

The most renowned poems are by Bronzino:

Un sol giovin ch’all’Ali, e al tronco Gorgon.

Perseo dimostri e quinci appar divina agl’occhi nostri L’opra,

ch’il bene & la bellessa serra suprema gloria de’tuoi dolci mali

(…a solitary youth whom thou hast portrayed as Perseus, with wings and the Medusa’s corpse: to our eyes the work appears divine, since it unites the good and beautiful, supreme glory of thy sweet labours…)


Letter from Cellini to Benedetto Varchi, Florence, 28 January, 1546

I could much better speak of the arguments governing the magnificence of art, then write of them, for I dictate badly and write worse. But such as I am, here you have me. I say that the art of sculpture is sevenfold greater than any other art to which design pertains, for a status must have eight aspects, all of which should be equally good. Whereas it happens on many occasions that the sculptor, not enough loving his art, contents himself with one fine aspect or perchance with two; and because it wearies him to file away somewhat from this beautiful side, and bring it into harmony with the six that are less comely, he leaves his statue most ill-proportioned. In this is displayed the excellence of Michelangelo, who perceived the full merits of this art, and who most revealed its greatness.

…I say further, that this marvellous art of sculpture is not possible unless the sculptor has a familiar acquaintance with all the most noble arts. For should he wish to represent a soldier with the qualities and courage that are proper to him, the said master must himself be most valiant, and with a good knowledge of weapons…

I think he achieved his goal, I have done a 360 around Perseus on many occasions and it certainly pleases from all angles. And I think Cellinididhave courage, like a soldier or warrior, for he was a great traveller and open to life’s experiences. He even shot a Duke and a Prince (?!) in defence of the pontiff in Rome. A slight exaggeration perhaps…?*a raised eyebrow, shrug, wink and a smile*
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