Historical story

Welcome Cellini, Syphilis and a Poisoning Over… Good

A portrait of Benvenuto Cellini

A strange and curious thread binds together Benvenuto Cellini, syphilis and a clumsy attempt to poison the artist.

Destiny is sometimes decidedly bizarre and the following anecdote is proof of this.

The great Florentine goldsmith and sculptor in 1529 fell ill with syphilis, a very widespread disease at the time, but refused to be treated.

In fact, at the time, the only valid remedy against the disease was mercury, which, however, had many side effects, including severe mood swings, paranoia and megalomania.

These contraindications convinced Cellini not to undergo the treatment.

Shortly thereafter, however, an episode occurred that is unbelievable.

Benvenuto Cellini was anything but a saint's shin ( see also https://www.pilloledistoria.it/10872/storia-moderna/benvento-cellini-artista-e-stupratore) and his irascible, quarrelsome and arrogant behavior led some of his acquaintances to want to kill him.

The weapon chosen was the typical one of the Renaissance: poison.

During a dinner, the diners put mercury salt, a very toxic compound in a sauce.

Cellini ate it and in the following days he was prey to very strong gastrointestinal pain, but he did not die.

Not only that:the mercury killed Treponema Pallidum, or the syphilis bacterium, effectively healing the artist.

That he still lived for 42 years.