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Francis I; The Sculptor's Apprentice

roman/novel, pub:1843, action:1539-1545

Written in collaboration with Paul Meurice. See the play Benvenuto Cellini and the opera Ascanio.

    Benvenuto Cellini
    François I visiting Benvenuto Cellini at the Castle of Nesle

Images (voyez tous/view all)
    Benvenuto Cellini's famous gold salt cellar

From Reviews (ADR) by Arthur D. Rypinski:
     Ascanio is a historical novel, set in Paris in the summer and fall of 1540, based on several episodes from the autobiography of the great Florentine sculptor and goldsmith, Benvenuto Cellini (1498-1562). Cellini's principal patron in Rome, Pope Clement, died, and Cellini had a falling out with his successor, Paul III. Imprisoned by the Pope, Cellini escaped, was recaptured, and was eventually released and traveled to France, along with his two assistants, Ascanio and Pagolo, to serve King François I.
     Dumas' novel is simultaneously a historical novel, a romance, and a meditation on the relationship between the aristocracy of talent and the aristocracy of birth, a topic that Dumas also explored in his play, Kean. Dumas' Cellini is simultaneously the greatest craftsman of his age, a lover, a deadly fighter swift to revenge an insult, and a man of honor--a man, in fact, rather like Dumas. Dumas' Cellini is a far more appealing character than the historical Cellini, who by his own account, was what the Twentieth Century would probably consider a murderous sociopath.
     Cellini arrives in France, and is welcomed cordially by François, and introduced into his court. François give Cellini several commissions, and François grants Cellini the right to occupy the Grand Nesle castle (now demolished, and the scene of Dumas' play La Tour de Nesle or The Tower.) However, the Grand Nesle is already held by Robert d'Estourville, Provost of Paris, and a protege of the Anne d'Heilly, Duchess D'Etampes, the King's mistress.
     Cellini assembles Ascanio and his workmen, and prepares to storm the Hotel de Nesle. On route, his party stops at church to pray for the success of their arms, and Cellini and Ascanio spot a beautiful girl worshipping at the church, Colombe, daughter of the provost. Cellini, distracted, offers up this version of the Lord's Prayer:

Our father, who art in heaven;
     look Ascanio, what clean-cut, expressive features!
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven,
     How fascinatingly graceful the undulating outline of her figure!
Give us this day our daily bread
     And thou sayest that such a lovely child is the daughter of that rascally provost that I propose to exterminate with my own hand?
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
     Even though I have to burn down the Hotel to do it--

     Cellini and Ascanio carry the Hotel by assault, earning the enmity of the Provost and the Duchess. Colombe, it transpires, lives next door, in the Petit Nesle, where the Provost is planning to marry her off to an elderly political ally. Both Cellini and Ascanio fall in love with her, while the worldly Duchess d'Estampes is smitten with the handsome (but innocent) Ascanio.
     The Provost and the Duchess plot Cellini's assassination, but fail. Meanwhile, Ascanio has found a way to meet Colombe and they fall in love. Touched by the purity of the young lovers, Cellini renounces his love for Colombe, and arranges to spirit her away from the grasp of her father.
     The Provost and the Duchess damage Cellini's credit with King François, find Colombe, and throw Ascanio in jail. Cellini fights back by seeking to cast a gigantic, sixty-foot tall bronze statue of Mars to restore his position with the monarch. Will Cellini succeed? Read the book, one of Dumas' most entertaining and tightly plotted historical novels.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     A fine historical romance of the period of Benvenuto Cellini's residence at the court of Francis I. Period 1539 to 1545.
     Paul Meurice probably had some hand in assisting Dumas, but the work is in the main the master's own. It will be remembered that in 1852 Meurice, with the emphatic disapproval of Dumas, drew a play from this romance. (See "Benvenuto Cellini," page 278.)
     It was the reading of this story which stimulated a potter of Bourg-en-Bresse, Charles Bozennet, to develop from artisan to artist. "Ascanio" first ran serially through the columns of "Le Siècle" in 1843.
     Original edition; Bruxelles, Lebègue et Sacré fils, 1843, 3 vols., 32mo., pp. 192, 191, 212.
     First French edition; Paris, Pétion, 1843-44, 5 vols, 8vo.
     It fills two volumes in the standard Calmann-Lévy issue, and one in their "Musée Littéraire."
     In Le Vasseur's "Alexandre Dumas Illustré" it forms part of Vol. X.

         References :—
     Quérard: "Supercheries Littéraires Dévoilées," Vol. I., Column 1103.
     Parran: "Bibliographie d'Alexandre Dumas," p. 48.
     Cellini (Benvenuto); "Memoirs," Book II., Chapters II. to VII. (in Cust's translation) ; Chapters XXVIII. to XXXVI. (in Roscoe's translation).
     Dumas: "Causeries," Vol. I.: "Une Fabrique des Vases Etrusques à Bourg-en-Bresse."

         English Translations :—
     "Francis I. ; or, the Sculptor's Apprentice and the Provost's Daughter;" London, G. Pierce, 1849.
     "Ascanio;" London, Simms and Macintyre (later Hodgson), pp. 264, 1861. This edition has frequently been reprinted later by Routledge and Sons.
     "Ascanio;" London, Dent, 2 vols., post 8vo., pp. 288, 329, 1895. Reprinted, same firm, 1 vol., 1906; and again, 1 vol., 1926.

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