One of the most important objects of the MAK Library and Works on Paper Collection is the draft for a salt cellar by the Italian goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). In the structure of the salt cellar, the washed pen and ink drawing in sepia shows the playful way in which Cellini approaches figural representations. Neptune, depicted with a trident, seems to be holding onto a vase with a handle in the shape of a swan’s neck in a frightened rather than enthroned manner. Neptune is carried by two grim looking dolphins and a tortoise which themselves are held at the base by two Nereids (sea nymphs). The center of the drawing is composed of a Venus shell shaped as a basin. In its form, the salt cellar matches the Saliera for King Francis I of France (1540–1543), which today is kept in the Kunsthistorisches Museum [Museum of Art History]. These kinds of salt cellars belonged to the decoration of aristocratic banqueting tables of the 16th century as centerpieces. The drawing is one of the master’s late works and must have been created between 1561 and 1570, not least because of the escutcheon with the flat crown which resembles the Medici’s coat of arms on Cellini’s coins and serves an indicator for his work during his Florentine period.


  • Title: Draft for a salt cellar
  • Creator: Benvenuto Cellini
  • Date Created: before 1571
  • Location: Florenz
  • Subject Keywords: Library and Works on Paper
  • Type: Draft
  • External Link: MAK – Museum of Applied Arts
  • Material and Technology: Paper; graphite pencil; pen and ink drawing, washed
  • Inventory Number: KI 885
  • Dimensions: 21,2 x 17,6 cm
  • Designer: Benvenuto Cellini

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