Benvenuto Celllm, an Italian artist, born in Florence in 1500, died there, Feb. 25, 1570. He was intended for the musical profession, to which his father was devoted, but gave the preference to the pursuits of a gold worker and engraver, and soon distinguished himself in chasing sword handles, cutting dies, and engraving medals. His headstrong disposition involved him in brawls and quarrels; and at the age of 15, when his genius had already excited the admiration of his townsmen, he was banished to Siena for having taken part in a duel. After wandering for some time from one town to another, he found his way to Rome, where a gold medal of Clement VII., of which he had furnished the die, secured him the favor of the papal court. The pope took him into his service, and this position gained him employment in cutting seals for many eminent prelates. He .also took part in the defence of the castle of San Angelo, against the imperial troops commanded by the constable de Bourbon, and asserted that he killed the constable and the prince of Orange. At Mantua, where he remained until an affray compelled him to leave the town, he became acquainted with Giulio Romano, and through him with the grand duke, who gave him some commissions.
On his return to Florence, where his military exploits at Rome had reinstated him in the good graces of the authorities, he formed an intimacy with Michel Angelo. While at Florence he devoted himself principally to the execution of medals, the best of which are Hercules and the Nemean lion, and Atlas supporting the globe. But another quarrel in which he became embroiled compelled him to leave Florence in disguise. He went to Rome, and was there appointed engraver to the mint. He soon found himself again in trouble, and a mistress of his named Angelica having fled to Naples, he followed her thither. He afterward returned to Rome, and remained for a considerable time in the service of the new pope Paul III., although his natural son, Pier Luigi, was hostile to him, and caused him to be imprisoned upon a charge of having robbed the castle of San Angelo during the war. He effected his escape, and through the interference of the cardinal of Ferrara obtained pardon. Subsequently he was employed in France, at the court of Francis I.; but in consequence of differences with the duchess d'fitampes he returned to Florence, where the grand duke Cosmo de' Medici supplied him with a studio.
Here he commenced his celebrated "Perseus," which as soon as it was exposed to public view created the utmost enthusiasm. He was employed upon many important works, and was not able to accept a proposition made to him by Catharine de' Medici to superintend the execution of a monument to be dedicated to Henry II. He remained in the grand duke's service until his death, and was buried with great pomp in the church of Sta. Annunziata. He left an autobiography, which is interesting as a record of the incidents of his stirring life, and of the history and manners of his times. It has been translated into German by Goethe, into French by Farjasseand A. Marcel, and into English by Nugent and by Roscoe. The best edition, from which Roscoe's translation was made, is that of Carpani of 1812. Cellini also left MSS. on various branches of art, and the academy della Crusca quotes him frequently as a classic. The best part of his artistic works are his smaller productions in metals, the embossed decorations of shields, cups, salvers, ornamented sword and dagger hilts, clasps, medals, and coins; the most celebrated specimens of his skill in these branches of art are a richly ornamented salt-cellar in the imperial gallery at Vienna, and a magnificent shield at Windsor castle.