Masculinity and Exile: The Art of Benvenuto Cellini
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This dissertation analyzes sixteenth-century European exile through the lens of masculinity, taking as its case study the Florentine goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. Drawing on a range of primary texts from the fields of law, literature, and art theory, this project examines Cellini’s written works, such as the Treatises and Autobiography, alongside his sculptural and other three-dimensional objects. The study of masculinity is particularly well-suited for an analysis of the effects of exile—in which gender, sex, and sexuality are alternately maintained and transformed across geopolitical boundaries. In focusing on the interaction between legal institutions and the material body and its representations, this dissertation probes the complex ways exile has shaped sixteenth-century identity formation and gendered categories of citizenship, nationhood, and belonging. It argues that exile forced Cellini and his patrons to negotiate these meaningful but contested categories, making exile central to our understanding of the art of this period. This dissertation is organized by three crucial aspects of exile, each in a separate chapter: exile’s forced encounter with foreignness, its creation of insiders and outsiders within one nation state, and its resolution in allowing those excluded to come back home. “The Jupiter” examines Cellini’s work in France, especially his work on a rarely discussed work, his silver life-size Jupiter. This chapter asks what role technique and material had in reshaping gendered power in the context of foreignness. “The Bust” assesses the function of state portraiture in defining centre and periphery. In tracing the creation and reception of Cellini’s bronze bust of Cosimo I (1546-47), including its move to the island of Elba in 1557, this chapter explores how exile shaped the expansion of the sixteenth-century absolutist state. “The Mint” examines the end of exile—a significant aspect of the institutional process of exile common in the sixteenth century, occurring when a term-length exile ended or when a banishment was lifted. This chapter analyzes two divergent areas of Cellini’s career, the mint and his marble Crucifix, to examine the function of money and compensation in making meaning in returning home.