Thursday, 3 April 2014

EARLY MODERN ART: Cellini markets his product.

In his autobiography (covering the years 1558-63), Benvenuto Cellini shares his sales technique with us.

  • Rule # 1: Be coy about the price. It is not my custom to put prices on my work, he told Duke Cosimo of Florence who was interested in his bronze sculpture of Perseus.
  • Rule # 2: Insist that art is precious and discussing its value is crass. I exclaimed that if the Duke gave me ten thousand crowns I would not be paid enough, and that if I had ever thought things would come down to haggling, I would not have entered his service.
  • Rule # 3: Claim that your art is unique. The duke said: Cities and great palaces can be built with thousands of ducats. I rejoined: Your Excellency can find multitudes of men who are able to build you cities and palaces, but you will not find one man in the world who could make you a second Perseus.
  • Rule # 4: If the customer threatens to walk away, offer to reduce the price. I heard the Duke say: I will throw Perseus to the dogs, and so our differences will be ended. Whereupon Cellini settled for 3500 gold crowns.
  • Rule # 5: Make sure you have the last word in the transaction: 3500 gold crowns should not be taken as my proper recompense for such a masterpiece, but only as a kind of gratuity,
  • Rule # 6: Don’t believe people who say they could have gotten you a better deal.  When the Duchess heard that [I had settled for 3500 crowns], she said I should have put myself into her hands, she would have gotten me five thousand crowns.
  • Rule # 7: Demand payment in full. Cellini made the mistake of accepting instalments. Soon the payments became irregular. He could see that the money was drying up. His salary was also in arrears. Then the duke fell ill and, with a mind to his eternal life, ordered to have my salary paid up. But I never obtained the remainder of the money for my Perseus.

Cellini’s Perseus is now in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. The image is from

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