b. 1500 Florence, Italy, d. 1571
Throughout Benvenuto Cellini's life, prolific periods of artistic output were often jeopardized by run-ins with the law. He was repeatedly prosecuted for sodomy, theft, and murder. Despite his notoriety, Cellini worked continuously for such august patrons as the popes in Rome, the Medici in Florence, and King François I of France. Cellini was born in Florence in 1500. Although his father, a well-educated, middle-class carpenter, wanted him to become a musician, Cellini began training as a goldsmith at the age of thirteen. Over the following few years, he worked with a variety of masters, studied antique sculpture, and began designing large-scale sculptural projects. At the royal residence in Fontainebleau, France, where François I imported numerous Italian artists in an effort to promote an artistic Renaissance in France, Cellini's sculptural projects reached their most ambitious heights. In the last years of his life and after another period of imprisonment, Cellini turned to writing his autobiography and treatises on goldsmithing and sculpture. In 1558 he took religious orders but later renounced them. He was one of the most prominent and respected Italian Mannerist artists of the 1500s.