Saltcellar of Francis I

Saltcellar of Francis I

Artist Benvenuto Cellini

Date 1540-43

Movement Late Renaissance

Medium Gold with enamel

Dimensions 10.25 x 13″

Housed at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


This work was created for King Francis I of France, this is the only surviving metalwork of Cellini’s. This piece exemplifies the artist’s exquisite craftsmanship into such an otherwise mundane object. Neptune guards a boat-shaped cellar of salt, while a personification of Earth, or perhaps Amphitrite, keeps watch over a triumphant arch that holds pepper; below are personifications of the four seasons and the four parts of a day.


The fact that Neptune points his (rather phallic) trident towards Earth, who caresses herself in return, is likely no mistake, as the piece was meant to be a conversation starter; upon receiving the gift, Francis I is alleged to have said “This is a magnificent piece of work by this man. He should never stope working.”