Benvenuto Cellini was a celebrated Renaissance sculptor and goldsmith; a passionate craftsman who was admired and resented by the most powerful political and artistic personalities in sixteenth-century Florence, Rome and Paris. He was also a murderer and a braggart, a shameless adventurer who at different times experienced both papal persecution and imprisonment, and the adulation of the royal court. Inn-keepers and prostitutes, kings and cardinals, artists and soldiers rub shoulders in the pages of his notorious autobiography: a vivid portrait of the manners and morals of both the rulers of the day and of their subjects. Written with supreme powers of invective and an irrepressible sense of humor, this is an unrivalled glimpse into the palaces and prisons of the Italy of Michelangelo and the Medici.
This essay was one of the first attempts of modern times to examine homosexuality, putting it in a medical, historical and legal context, and propose that civil rights should be extended to gay people. With Edward Carpenter and Walt Whitman, Symonds was one of the pioneers of gay rights and spirituality. Symonds was a literate British aristocrat who, by virtue of his class status, was able to lead a very active sexual life. He has overcome the fear and the regret that Victorian society has attached to homosexuality through an internal struggle that is now known as "going out". However, he had to live a double life, taking lovers of lower social classes while embedded in a silly marriage and usually had to write his experiences in veiled language. This privately printed essay, which frankly addresses homosexuality, is also extremely cautious. It concludes that homosexuality is innate and not a disease or mental disorder, gay sexuality is a bit natural as heterosexuality, and homosexual acts among authorized adults need not be treated as criminals. These concepts are rather moderate (although at that time they were naturally radical) and today they are widely accepted. Symonds later wrote an accompanying essay on this, a problem in Greek ethics, which recalled his vast classical knowledge to examine homosexuality in ancient Greece.
The Buonarroti Simoni, to whom Michelangelo belonged, were a Florentine family of ancient burgher nobility. Their arms appear to have been originally "azure two bends or." To this coat was added "a label of four points gules inclosing three fleur-de-lys or." That augmentation, adopted from the shield of Charles of Anjou, occurs upon the scutcheons of many Guelf houses and cities. In the case of the Florentine Simoni, it may be ascribed to the period when Buonarrota di Simone Simoni held office as a captain of the Guelf party (1392). Such, then, was the paternal coat borne by the subject of this Memoir. His brother Buonarroto received a further augmentation in 1515 from Leo X., to wit: "upon a chief or, a pellet azure charged with fleur-de-lys or, between the capital letters L. and X." At the same time he was created Count Palatine. The old and simple bearing of the two bends was then crowded down into the extreme base of the shield, while the Angevine label found room beneath the chief. According to a vague tradition, the Simoni drew their blood from the high and puissant Counts of Canossa.
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