Benvenuto and his brother were also banished.
Shortly after this Benvenuto found himself at Pisa on the road to Rome. He was footsore, penniless, and as he stood gazing into the window of a goldsmith the proprietor came out and asked him his business. He replied, “Sir, I am a designer and goldsmith of no mean ability.”
Straightway the man, seeing the lad was likely and honest, set him to work. The motto of the boy at this time was supplied by his father. It ran thus: In whatsoever house you be, steal not and live honestlee.
Seeing this motto, the proprietor straightway trusted him with all the precious jewels in the store. He remained a year at Pisa, and was very happy and contented in his work, for never once did he have to play the flute, nor did he hear one played. Nearly every week came loving letters from his father begging him to come home, and admonishing him not to omit practise on the flute.
At the end of a year he got a touch of fever and concluded to go home, as Florence was much more healthful than Pisa.
Arriving home his father embraced him with tears of unfeigned joy. His changed and manly appearance pleased his family greatly. And straightway when their tears were dried and welcomes said, his father placed a flute in his hands and begged him to play in order that he might see if his playing had kept pace with his growth and skill in other ways.
The young man set the instrument to his lips and played an original selection in a way that made his father shout with joy, “Genius is indispensable, but practise alone makes perfect!”
Michelangelo was born twenty-five years before Cellini; their homes were not far apart. In the Gardens of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Michelangelo had received that strong impetus toward the beautiful that was to last him throughout his long and arduous life.
When Cellini was eighteen the Master was at Rome, doing the work of the Pope, the pride of all artistic Florence, and toward the Eternal City Cellini looked longingly. He haunted the galleries and gardens where broken fragments of antique and modern marbles were to be seen, and stood long before the “Pieta” of Michelangelo in the Church of Santa Croce, wondering if he could ever do as well.
About this time he tells us that he copied that famous cartoon of Michelangelo’s, “Soldiers Bathing in the Arno,” made in competition with Leonardo for the decoration of the Palazzo Vecchio, which he declares marks the highest pitch of power attained by the Master. While at this work there appeared in Florence one Pietro Torrigiano, who had been an exile in England for over twenty years. The visitor held Cellini’s drawing in his hand, studied it carefully and remarked: “I know this man Michelangelo Buonarrotti–we used to draw and work together under the tutorship of Masaccio. One day Buonarrotti annoyed me and I dealt him such a blow on the nose that I felt the flesh, cartilage and bone go down under my knuckles like a biscuit. It was a mark he will carry to his grave.”
These words were truth, save that Michelangelo was struck with a mallet and not the man’s hand. And it was for the blow that Torrigiano had to flee, and seemingly, with the years, he had gotten it into his head that he left Florence of his own accord, and his crime was a thing of which to boast. Voltaire once said that beyond doubt the soldier who thrust the spear into the side of the Savior went away and boasted of the deed. Torrigiano’s name is forever linked with that of Michelangelo. Thus much for the pride of little men who make a virtue of a vice.
But the boast of Torrigiano caused Cellini to grow faint and sick, then to burn with hate. He snatched the drawing from the other’s hand, and might have deprived Torrigiano of all the nose he possessed, had not better counsel prevailed. Ever after Cellini avoided the man–for the man’s own good.