The Cellini Salt Cellar

Benvenuto Cellini

The saliera is Cellini's only surviving, fully authenticated work in gold. It was commissioned by François I during the artist's stay in Paris in 1540-1543 and was subsequently given by Charles IX to Ferdinand II of Tyrol when the latter represented the king at his wedding with Archduchess Elizabeth in 1570. This extraordinarily valuable table utensil, which according to his own account Cellini wrought freehand from rolled gold, is also an allegorical representation of the planet Earth. In his autobiographical account of his career, he says: '[...] to show how the Sea is combined with the Earth, I made two figures a good palm high sitting next to each other with intertwined feet, just as we see the arms of the Sea running into the Earth. The Sea, depicted as a man, held a richly wrought ship that could hold sufficient salt, with four seahorses under it and the figure holding a trident in his right hand. I showed Earth as a woman, with such a beautiful figure and as graceful as I knew how. Beside her I placed a rich, decorated temple on the ground to hold pepper. [...] On its side were pictures of the comeliest animals that the Earth could bring forth.' On the throat of the base, this allegory is completed by the figures of the four winds, the times of the day and emblems of human activity.


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