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  • One of my favourite excerpts in literature is from Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography. Cellini was a Renaissance genius, uomo universale, jack-of-all-trades par excellence: goldsmith, sculptor, writer, scientist, painter, musician and whatever profession one could invent.

    In his autobiography from 1560s Cellini tells about one crucial moment from his childhood. It was wintertime in Firenze and young Benvenuto sat near fireplace. Suddenly, he saw some odd creature moving in flames. It was black lizard with yellow spots, and the strangest thing was that the flames didn’t harm it at all.

    Benvenuto shouted at his father: “Papa! Come! Look! What is it?” His father stepped closer and glanced at flames. Then father said filled with awe: “It’s the rarest animal of the world. It is the salamander. It lives in flames. The extraordinary fate awaits the person who sees it.”

    Then father abruptly slapped Benvenuto on his cheeks. The boy started to weep and cried: “Papa! Papa! Why did you hit me?” His father answered: “So that you wouldn’t forget this special moment during all your life.”

    Well. My son saw the salamander of the picture in Corsica. “Papa! What is it?” he shouted.

    I didn’t slap my son. He won’t forget the special moment. The renaissance had its magnificent uomo universales. They had all the talents of the world, but they didn’t have a camera.
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