Life, translated by Thomas Nugent, 1771

Benvenuto Cellini, Life, translated by Thomas Nugent, 1771

   About this time, whilſt I was ſtill a young
man of three and twenty, ſo dreadful an
epidemic diſeaſe prevailed in Rome, that
there died every day ſeveral thouſands.
Though I was ſomewhat terrified at this ca-
lamity, I began to indulge myſelf in certain
pleaſures of fancy, ariſing from different
cauſes, which I ſhall hereafter ſpecify ; for,
on holydays, I amuſed myſelf with viſiting
the antiquities of that city, and ſometimes
took their figures in wax, at other times I
made drawings of them. As theſe antiqui-
ties are all ruinous edifices, where a number
of pigeons build their neſts, I had a mind
to divert myſelf among them with my fow-
ling piece ; but being greatly afraid of the
plague, I avoided all commerce with the in-
habitants, and made Paulino carry my gun ;
thus we repaired together to the ruins, from
whence I often returned home loaded with
pigeons of the largeſt ſize. But I never
choſe to put more than a ſingle ball into
my piece, and in this manner, by being a
good marks-man, I procured a conſiderable
quantity of game. The fowling piece
which I held in my hand, was, both on the
inſide and outſide, as bright as a looking-
glaſs ; I likewiſe made the powder as fine
as the minuteſt duſt ; and, in the uſe of it,
I diſcovered ſome of the moſt admirable
ſecrets that ever were known till this
time. Of this I will, to avoid prolixity,
give only one proof, which will ſurprize
even thoſe who are adepts in this matter :
When I had charged my piece with a quan-
tity of powder, equal in weight to the fifth
part of a ball, it carried two hundred paces
point blank : in a word, ſo great was the
delight I took in ſhooting, that it often di-
verted me from the buſineſs of my ſhop.
Though it had this ill conſequence, it, in
in other reſpects, procured me conſide-
rable advantages ; for, by this exerciſe of
ſhooting, I greatly improved my conſti-
tution, the air was of vaſt ſervice to me,
and braced my nerves, which were na-
turally relaxed: whilſt I was enjoying
theſe pleaſures, my spirits ſuddenly revived ;
I no longer had my uſual gloom, and I
worked to more purpoſe, than when my
attention was totally engroſſed by buſineſs ;
upon the whole my gun turned rather to
my advantage, than the contrary. Add to
this, that, by means of this recreation, I con-
tracted an acquaintance with ſome people,
that kept a look out for the peaſants of
Lombardy, who, at a particular ſeaſon of
the year, came to work in the vineyards
about Rome : theſe peaſants, in digging the
ground, ſcarce ever failed to diſcover ancient
medals, agates, cornelians, and camaieu's ;
they likewiſe found precious ſtones, ſuch as
emeralds, zaphyrs, diamonds and rubies.
Thoſe who went in queſt of the peaſants,
often bought ſuch things of them for a
trifle ; and I dealing with the former,
have frequently often given them gold
crowns for curioſities, which had coſt them
only ſo many pence. This traffick, beſides
the great profit I derived from it, which
was at leaſt a tenth, procured me the
friendſhip of moſt of the Roman cardinals.
I ſhall mention only a few of the moſt re-
markable of theſe rarities, that happened
to fall into my hands ; imprimis, a Dol-
phin's head, about the ſize of a large bean ;
though art was eminently conſpicuous in
this head, it was ſtill ſurpaſſed by nature ;
for this emerald was of ſo fine a colour,
that the perſon who purchaſed it of me for
ten crowns, cauſed it to be curiouſly ſet in
a gold ring, and ſold it for a hundred.
I had likewiſe one of the fineſt topazes
that ever was beheld: art and nature ſeemed
to rival each other in embelliſhing this
ſtone, of the ſize of a large nut ; and upon it
was carved an amazing fine head, intended
to repreſent a Minerva. I had likewiſe, in
my collection, another ſtone of a differ-
ent ſort from any of theſe; this was a ca-
maieu, upon which was engraved a Her-
cules binding a triple-headed Cerberus ;
this was a piece of ſuch extraordinary
beauty, and ſuch admirable workman-
ſhip, that our great Michael Angelo de-
clared he had never beheld any thing that
ſurpaſſed it. Amongſt a number of bronze
medals, one fell into my hands, upon which
was repreſented a head of Jupiter; this
medal was the largeſt I ever beheld : the
head was one of the moſt compleat maſter-
pieces of art; on the reverſe were ſeveral
other figures, reſembling the head, in which
the artiſt diſplayed his ingenuity in a man-
ner equally conſpicuous. I might launch
out into a long diſſertation upon this ſub-
ject, but I chooſe to avoid prolixity.