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Publisher's Summary

Master Italian sculptor, goldsmith, and writer Benvenuto Cellini is best remembered for his magnificent autobiography. In this work, which was actually begun in 1558 but not published until 1730, Cellini beautifully chronicles his flamboyant times. He tells of his adventures in Italy and France, and his relations with popes, kings, and fellow artists. From Florence and Pisa to Siena and Rome, Cellini portrays a tumultuous period - the age of Galileo, Michelangelo and the de Medicis - with an artist's eye for detail and a curmudgeon's propensity for criticism.

Cellini, according to himself, lived a very full life, and his account of his exploits, though grandiloquent and somewhat suspect, is always entertaining. Historians have considered this work to be a prime example of the emergence of modern individualism during the Renaissance.

Translated by John Addington Symonds.

(P)1996 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The minute details recounted by Cellini are gracefully read by Whitfield, who breathes life into this fascinating autobiography." (AudioFile)
"[The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini] chronicles with unflagging energy and force one of the most tempestuous lives and one of the largest egos in all of history....The vigorous translation is superbly realized by British narrator Robert Whitfield, successfully bringing to [the recording] Cellini's unforgettable story. Highly recommended for all collections." (Library Journal)

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  • Leslie Ross
  • 07-06-2010

The problem is with Cellini himself.


If I am ever magically transported through time to the world of the Italian Renaissance, I hope I am never seated next to Benvenuto Cellini at a dinner party.

I bought this audiobook expecting a glimpse into that most interesting time in history. I found instead a narcissist's self-aggrandizing list of brags, some of them so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. (He describes himself as pretty much single-handedly defending Rome and the Pope against the invasion of the Holy Roman Emperor.)

After seemingly endlessly mentioning how he, such a devoted son, constantly sent money home to his "poor father"-- he then notes with remarkable unconcern, in half a sentence, that he went home after a short foray out of Florence and returned to discover that his father and sister were dead from plague. He then goes on with his story, rather blithely.

I just didn't like him very much. Okay, I really kind of disliked him a lot. One chapter, he could have skipped by simply saying "And then, in about thirty separate instances, the Pope told me that I was smarter, better-looking, more talented, and more honest than any other man he had ever met, I bowed and left the room, well satisfied that I had pleased him."

Instead, we have to suffer through each of the thirty instances.

I had to stop listening. So if you're considering this book because you think you might get a glimpse into the daily of life of great artists- skip it. He mentions rubbing elbows with Michelangelo, but the only thing we hear about Michelangelo from Cellini is that he was a great admirer of Cellini's wit, beauty, artistry, etc. Just like, apparently, every other person alive in those days.

But not me. Oh, not me.

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  • Jean
  • 11-10-2013

The autobiography reads like a novel

I have never read a book written in 1558 before. Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence on 3 Nov 1500 and died on 13 Feb 1571. He began his autobiography in 1558 and it ended abruptly just before his last trip to Pisa about 1563. He apparently was a talented goldsmith, sculptor and was also a flute player. The first part of the book tells about the battles between Benvenuto and his father. His father was a musician and wanted Benvenuto to follow in his footsteps. He taught him to play but Benvenuto wanted to be an artist. He left Florence when he was 16 to study goldsmithing in Pisa. The story of his life is very interesting as he was a musician, goldsmith, sculptor and a soldier. This book reads like a novel. He mostly likely exaggerated his abilities but his art is in museum today so one can evaluate for oneself. His patron was Cosimo de Medici of Florence, Pope Clement VII and Pope Paul III along with Francis I of France. In the story I got the feeling he felt some key church people were against him and he would flee to another city for awhile. He writes in a complacent way of how he contemplated his murders before carrying them out. Apparently he murder about 5 people. He was in and out of prison as well as in and out of the Vatican. He goes into detail about the art he created and also a good deal about life in general in the 1500. I learned a great deal and enjoyed the style of his writing. I read this as an audio book; Robert Whitfield did a good job with all the Italian names. If you are interested in art history or history you will enjoy this book.

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  • Zenobia Woodlife
  • 10-04-2021

VERY interesting. Highly recommend!!

I read Cellini's Autobiography back in the 70's and marveled at it. Still feel the same way plus, after all that's happened since then, I wonder at Cellini's supreme arrogance and his seemingly contradictory piety. Obviously a man of his time and the social stature he gained due to his skill as a sculptor, goldsmith and BS Artist! If the Autobiography is to be believed, and from what I've read of that era , it seems to be... well, then he had more lives than an exceptional cat. One vile aspect of the man was his quick andon occadions deadly rage! He preferred to just skewer someone than deal with whatever prompted the anger and discord pre-emptively. And, for the most part he got away with it! My next quest will be to find a good Biography of him to try and understand more of how Cellini fit into the overall historical picture and what his lasting effect was on both the art of sculpture and goldsmithing & if any - on the political. Enjoyed the Narration! Always enjoy listening to Simon Vance. Not sure how he does it, - subtle intonation and changes in pace etc... he just gets any book he narrates, to flow naturally. Wish he'd do more Autobiographies and mysteries instead of so much fantasy tho. I'd love to hear him narrate any of Reginald Hill. Not just the Dalziel-Pasco series but Joe Sixsmith and the stand alone novels. Hill has an ability to find the most descriptive words in the English Language and uses them so adroitly that I think Vance would be the only narrator able to handle that.

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  • Stephen
  • 04-02-2016

A braggart and a bully but also a true genius

Benvenuto Cellini's life reads like a movie script, and if asked to name a director worthy of its production it would be Tarantino. The man is bigger than life or so he would have us believe, he moves with and around the most powerful and influential men and women of his time. He in turn annoys and exasperates Kings, Popes, Dukes and his greatest artistic contemporaries while at the same time holding them entranced with his whiles and wit. He is the renascence party animal par excellence a man to love and hate. But never dull or without charm. To know his times you must read this man life, and then work out if you can if it's work of fantastic self aggrandisement or so honest an work as to beggar belief.

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  • Colin Mantripp
  • 15-04-2019

Great story

Good to hear a first hand account of life in the 1500’s and the life and loves of a talented artist and his clients and friends

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  • Smith family
  • 18-07-2011

Best Book I ever read (listened)

This book provides a facinating insight into life during the early 16th century. Benvenuto Cellini was a brilliant artist as well as a story teller. A real page turner...

3 people found this helpful

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