Benvenuto Cellini and Air Spirits

The Artisan King and his sylph Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), sculptor, court jeweler of Cosimo de’ Medici, Roman Popes and French King François I, had no rivals at the height of his career, so other artists called him the “king of artisans”. His large bronze statue of Perseus in Florence has been preserved, as has the Nymph of Fontainebleau, but many of his smaller works have been lost.

He had a difficult and stormy life, which he described in his autobiography “My Life”, in which he also disclosed his experiences with magic and evocations of spirits.

Particularly interesting are the details about his association with a beautiful sylph. Finding no suitable models among women, he invoked a sylph who would appear to him now as Diana in an azure dress, now as naked Aphrodite, now as Thalia under a mask, and now as Hebe with the cup of eternal youth. He talked to her like a real person. She looked for him at midnight. He knew she was coming because he would hear the light sounds of her footsteps on the mosaic floor mixing with the murmur of the nearby sea. And when a young queen adorned with diamonds and flowers approached him, he would know that it was his beloved sylph.

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