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Fine Art Enamellists - Benvenuto Cellini

  • This blog is designed to acquaint readers with the work of enamellists who are working in fine art, that is, representational and abstract images designed to deliver a specific message or emotional tone , as opposed to decorative art.

    Benvenuto Cellini

    The first artist I knew anything about was Benvenuto Cellini. I learned about him while I was still in grade school. Classics Illustrated number 38 was a comic book version of his autobiography, The Adventures of Cellini. Thus, our enamellist of this month is Benvenuto Cellini. Unfortunately, he has only one recognized piece which can be unequivocally attributed to him, and the enamel on this piece is a secondary medium. Yet this piece, the Cellini Salt Cellar, is well know and recognized as a masterpiece. It was stolen some years back and this theft made international headlines, as did its subsequent return.

    The Cellini Salt Cellar. 1543

    The choice of Benvenuto Cellini was also influenced by his colorful life. His autobiography has been read for centuries. I mentioned the Classic Illustrated comic book which intrigued me in grade school. In his stories about himself,  he was an artist who was also a musician, a dueling, swashbuckling lover, a wheeler-dealer with popes and nobility, and a soldier of fortune.. He has had an opera written about him and a big American movie. His adventures would have been a perfect role for Errol Flynn, but the movie “The Affairs of Cellini”  was made before Errol Flynn broke into movies. Cellini was played by Frederic March. Not bad!  Recently, Terry Gilliam  made a TV movie “Benvenuto Cellini”

    The 1947 classic illustrated version of Cellini’s autobiography.

    Frederic March as Cellini in a 1934 romantic comedy.

    Historians have been quite skeptical about Cellini’s claimed adventures. Too many duels, too many bedrooms, too many irate husbands, too many satisfied royal patrons, and too many lost masterpieces. So what! Let’s accept him as a character and a very superior self promoter and enjoy his masterpiece and his great stories.

    Salt cellar detail showing the complex metalwork and the use of vitreous enamel.

    Salt Cellar detail showing the use of vitreous enamel.