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The Works of Cellini and Michelangelo

( Orginally published 1962 )



When, several years ago, a salt cellar made by Benvenuto Cellini was shown on an American television program, it was regarded as so valuable that even while it was in front of the cameras, in the direct view of millions of people, it was still guarded with armed men on either side of it.

A treasure beyond the reach of most, this salt cellar is so valuable because Benvenuto Cellini was the greatest goldsmith of all time, unsurpassed in the miracles he wrought with gold, silver and other precious metals.

Yet craftsmanship is a thing apart from character, and even in his own time, while recognizing his artistry as a goldsmith and sculptor, people still called him "The Terrible Man.",/p.

It was certainly descriptive of his character, for this was the man who, although a dashing enough figure, was a brawler, a swordsman and a killer. He was the Casanova of his day-leaving behind him at least three legitimate children and an untold number of illegitimate children.

Born in 1500 in Florence, Italy, he died in that same city in 1571, although in the interim he had done work in other Italian cities as well as in Florence. He worked for Francis I, Pope Clement VII, and Cosimo de Medici.

He was the confidant of kings and popes but, because of his brawling nature, he was not always in their good graces.

Argumentative, proud, easily insulted, "The Terrible Man" lived up to his name, but this did not detract from the magnificence of his works-works which, if all of them could be found, would carry a price so high that no one man could pay it.

Yet, if you could find only one of the objects he made, your fortune would be assured.

Much of his smaller works have disappeared. He was primarily a goldsmith, and naturally the objects made by a goldsmith are necessarily small. There were salt cellars and jewel boxes, buttons and jugs. All sorts of small things-and most of them lost.

There is a jug which Cellini had started but never completed, and he mentions this little jug in his autobiography. He reports it as having been stolen, along with "a great quantity of other valuable articles." He found it necessary, according to his own words, to recommence the jug, starting all over again. Thus there is, somewhere, an unfinished Cellini jug just waiting for you to find it.

This is only one of the many Cellini works known to be lost. Some of them, perhaps, were shipped to the New World in the early days of the Spanish conquistadores when they brought art from all over Europe to decorate their churches in what was then the savage wilderness.

The smaller works of Cellini's goldsmithing art could be anywhere-even in your attic. There are two reasons why these treasures must be found: first, to put them back in the museums, where they belong, and, second, to put a fortune in your pocket.

But there are other items of Cellini's which are also lost-objects he made not as a goldsmith, for, like so many artists of his day, he did not work in only one field.

He was also a sculptor. But for many years it was believed that he had never worked in marble. Yet, less than a quarter of a century ago, two marble statues, one of Apollo and one of Narcissus, were found in a garden in Florence, Italy. And they were made by Cellini. These were completely unexpected finds, because even the experts were certain that Cellini had never used marble.

Not too long ago the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco was given another Cellini marble-a bust representation of Cosimo de Medici, one of Cellini's patrons. Value of this latest Cellini marble? One estimate stands at a possible $500,000.

When one-time flashlight salesman Roscoe F. Oakes presented the marble to the De Young Museum, he gave them more than just $500,000 worth of Cellini art. He gave them an historic link between the art world of today and the brawling, exciting era of the sixteenth century's most "Terrible Man."

What other statues are missing, no one really knows. As I stated above, it was not even known that he had worked in marble until some of his missing statues were found.

There is, however, one series in connection with Cellini's work as a sculptor which is missing, and yet it is one which most people would never consider as being worth anything at all: the clay models which he made for a fountain at Fontainebleau and which have never been found. Even these models of clay would be of some value if they could be found, although they would certainly not have the worth of a statue or a small piece of goldsmithing. Anything of Cellini's which you might find would have some value, and most of his works would be worth a fortune.

There are numerous treasure stories connected with the name of Cellini, as with so many fabulous men and works of the past.

There is, for example, the story of the man who was browsing through a San Francisco second-hand store. He found, the story goes, a Cellini cup, for which he paid $2. Today, that cup, still according to the story, is worth $1,000,000.

The trouble with stories of this kind is that they cannot be verified. I have heard the story many times but cannot find any basis for it. It may be true, of course, but Richard B. Gump of the famous Gump's store in San Francisco has no information on it. A verification in my own mind that the story is therefore rumor, for surely Richard Gump would at least have heard of the incident if it were authentic.

Yet even if this story is rumor, perhaps the next time you step into a second-hand store, your own find will not be rumor but could become another true anecdote in the history of treasure hunting. For to find a Cellini cup, salt cellar, jewel box or marble statue is to find a fortune.

There was a man who was a painter, architect and sculptor, and so great was his genius that when a thousand years have passed the world will still remember and honor his name: Michelangelo!

So intense was he, so determined that each thing he made should have perfection, and so talented, that he reached a pinnacle of artistic genius never before or since reached by man; yet even then he was never completely satisfied with his own work.

So intent was he upon portraying exactly the anatomy of the human figure that he cut up and dissected human corpses to better understand the lines and shadings he would carve into a block of inanimate stone or paint on a canvas.

There was no task Michelangelo Buonarroti would not undertake-tasks at which other artists had failed. Michelangelo accepted their challenges-and brought forth genius.,/p.

Once a huge piece of marble was brought to him, and even the great Michelangelo faltered at the thought of producing anything from it, because the marble was chipped and damaged beyond recognition. Another sculptor had attempted to make a statue from this marble but had failed miserably.

Michelangelo, however, accepted the challenge, and brought forth one of his greatest creations-a colossal David so heavy that it took forty men to move it out of his workshop when it was finished.

The David stood for over three hundred years in the central square in Florence. Today it has been moved and is now safe in the Academy in Florence.

But there was another David made by Michelangelo which, unfortunately, is not safe either in the Academy in Florence or anywhere else, as far as it is known. For this is one of the missing treasures of Michelangelo-a work which can never be matched again by any living artist.

This second David is of bronze. Shorter than the marble David in Florence, which stands eighteen feet high, this David is lifesize. It was made on order for Pierre de Rohan and was forwarded to France in 1508. It has disappeared and has been lost for over three centuries. Three hundred years, of course, is a very long time for a work of art such as this to be on the missing list, but there is a good chance that it may yet be found. Sometimes, however, there is a better chance of finding something which has not been lost for such a long period-such as Michelangelo's statue of Hercules which disappeared in the early part of the 1700's.

Michelangelo was only seventeen when he created this statue of Hercules, which, at one time, was in the possession of the King of France. But even at seventeen Michelangelo was a genius, a genius not only in sculpture but in almost every other field of art as well. Everyone knows of Michelangelo's great paintings, especially those in the Sistine Chapel, but his portable paintings are another story entirely. The only definitely authentic Michelangelo portable painting which is extant today hangs in the Ufl'-IZi Gallery. It is a magnificent representation of the Child, the Madonna, and Saint Joseph.

The rest are missing, lost to us forever unless the treasure hunter looks for and finds them.

There is no set value you can place on a piece of sculpture or a painting by Michelangelo, for they are numbered among the museum pieces that are considered "priceless." There are museums which would pay any price for one of his works of art.

Even his working architectural models would have value if you could find them, for, of all the clay and wooden models he made, only one example has, as far as we know, survived. This is the model for the cupola of Saint Peter's. All the rest of them are missing.

These models, of course, would not have the fantastic value of his sculpture and paintings, but they would be worth something. And they could be anywhere.

The world's great missing works of art could be anywhere at all, and anywhere is a big word. It takes in many countries and many places. All of Europe; all of America; part of Asia. Every junk pile; every attic; every second-hand store.

Like the Pennsylvania mountain second-hand store where it would have been thought impossible to find a great work of art. Yet it was here that the bust of a young girl was found. And when the experts finally got a look at it, they saw in the lines of the head the master craftsmanship of the great French artist, Auguste Rodin.

The experts were not certain, of course. The authenticity of the bust is still being investigated, but if it is by Rodin it is one of the great treasures of the world returned to us.

So with the works of Michelangelo. They could be anywhere. Even in an out-of-the-way second-hand store. The works of art which are lost are numbered in the thousands, but of all of them probably the greatest are those of Michelangelo. These treasures are waiting for you to make your fortune-if you can find them.