The Historical Background
From late-eighteenth-century Paris the world’s first aeronauts arced skyward in gas-filled balloons of their own making above crowds of earthbound onlookers. Then and there human beings began to place themselves in the previously forbidden open air, to successfully defy the consensus of the possible, to fly. Revolutions in the appropriation of space, in the valuation of practical knowledge, and in the projection of the self conditioned these unprecedented ascents of a few bold individuals.
Virtuosos are ordinarily taken to be people who exhibit great technical skill in an art, a craft, or any other field of human activity. This study employs a somewhat narrower and more precise definition. Here virtuosos are taken to be people who exhibit their talents in front of an audience, who possess as their principal talent a high degree of technical skill, and who aggrandize themselves in reputation and fortune, principally through the exhibition of their skill.
During the Age of Revolution, individuals with these characteristics appeared in a wide variety of fields, including chess, cooking, crime detection, musical performance, and automaton-building. Their diversity of occupation may have obscured but did not preclude their development of fundamentally similar drives to excel in spectacle-making, technical skill, and self-promotion. More specifically, these virtuosos had a theatrical bent and loved to perform. They sought to find or gather an audience and then to expand it. In so doing, they modified the exercise of their arts to make them more striking to the eye or ear—that is, more spectacular. They presented the marvelous and the outré. They developed large rep-ertoires of techniques. They improved or invented instruments used in their art. They performed often, with rapidity, and from memory. In general they showed their technical skill through the overcoming of difficulties. They advertised their activities in newspapers and on posters. They wrote about themselves or hired or encouraged others to write about them in books and magazines. They solicited for themselves honors, awards, large fees, and other manifestations of social and material advancement. Such were the common characteristics of the virtuosos of the Age of Revolution.
During the Age of Revolution, Paris became the center of a cyclone of virtuosity, as increasing numbers of highly skilled performers arrived from around Europe and the rate of their exhibitions accelerated. Paris was at the same time the center of an anticyclone, as native or naturalized virtuosos flew out from there to tour Europe.
How did it happen that individuals in divergent occupations acquired convergent characteristics? How did it happen that Paris became their focal point? And how did these things happen specifically during the Age of Revolution? The answer in a package is that spectacle-making was encouraged by the proliferation of public spaces, that the cultivation of technical skill was encouraged by the appreciation in the value of practical knowledge, and that self-promotion was encouraged by the dissemination of the self-centered worldview, all of which took place during the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries throughout the Western world but with particular intensity in Paris.
The Age of Revolution is the standard label for a period of Western history that has no standard bracket dates. Here it will refer to the last quarter of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century, encompassing the American Revolution of 1776–83, the French Revolution of 1789–99, the sporadic revolutions around Europe around 1830, the continent-wide Revolution of 1848, the Industrial Revolution, the Romantic Revolution in the arts, and various other little-studied and unlabeled revolutions.
A revolution in the appropriation of space accompanied the political and economic revolutions. “Space” here means both physical space, defined by location and material characteristics, and social space, defined by common activity of a group of people. For just as “office” may refer to a room, a place in a building, it may also refer to an occupation, a place in society; likewise, “position” may refer to a location or to an occupation. In most countries government is associated with particular buildings in a particular city, but it is more a social than a physical space. Government is the space in which designated people make, execute, and judge adherence to law. In general the political revolutions gave access to this space to many more people, as public officials, as jurors, and as voters. Even more important than this quantitative change was the qualitative, conceptual change: Subjects became citizens and government became self-government. Areas formerly ruled from outside became independent: The United States gained independence from Great Britain in 1783, Norway from Denmark in 1814, Greece from Turkey in 1829, Belgium from the Netherlands in 1830, and both Hungary and northern Italy from Austria temporarily in 1848–49 and permanently in the 1860s. Elected legislative and consultative bodies sprang into existence or, where such bodies already existed, they acquired real power. Kings and queens continued to rule in almost all the countries of Europe, but many of them now ruled over constitutional or limited rather than absolute monarchies. Thus, during the Age of Revolution more and more people could feel that their government was more and more collectively theirs. Put another way, during the Age of Revolution a large number of governments were wrested from the private domains of family dynasties and converted into public spaces.
This happened in France, which went through a whole series of political revolutions. These followed a long series of kings, many of them named Louis, who ruled during a period afterward termed the Old Regime, extending back from 1789 into the Middle Ages. In 1789 broke out the first of the political revolutions, known variously as the French Revolution, the Great French Revolution, the Great Revolution, or simply the Revolution. It started rather peacefully, but gradually, from one representative assembly to the next—the Estates General, the National Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, and the National Convention—it became more radical and violent. The successive assemblies progressively restricted the powers of King Louis XVI until finally the National Convention abolished the monarchy, put the deposed king on trial, and executed him. Shortly thereafter, the Committee of Public Safety, a group of twelve Convention representatives led by Maximilien Robespierre, took control of France and from June 1793 to July 1794 waged a Reign of Terror against its real and perceived enemies, around seventeen thousand of whom were executed by summary justice. Other Convention representatives finally overthrew this brutally effective regime and drew up a new constitution that resulted in a corrupt, ineffective regime called the Directory, after the name of the five-member executive council at its head, which governed during the last four years of the Revolution, from 1795 through 1799.
The revolutionaries made government a public space and then used the space for public spectacles. Discussion in the representative assemblies became oratorical fireworks. Votes became judgments executed by the guillotine, set up in large city squares for the accommodation of large audiences. Fêtes and processions decreed by the assemblies flooded the newly laid-out parks and boulevards of Paris with hundreds of thousands of people celebrating a funeral, an anniversary, a religious belief, a military victory, or a new sense of nationhood.
The revolutionaries also opened up many public spaces in the economy. The Old Regime had had a labyrinth of regulations protecting established patterns of economic activity but obstructing economic development. Most trades, for example the food service trades of cookery, butchery, and patisserie, operated under the guild system, a rigid system of laws, rules, and traditions according to which one could open a pastry shop only after becoming a master pastrycook, one could become a master only after working for several years as a journeyman, and one could become a journeyman only after successfully completing a years-long training program as an apprentice. Impresarios of theaters and publishers of books, periodicals, and newspapers had to have a license from the government, which issued only a limited number of them and then censored the limited output of those few licensees. A network of internal customs barriers had grown up over the centuries, so that to import goods from the French provinces into Paris, for example, one had to pay a duty at the city gate where one entered. The revolutionaries abolished the guild system, so that anyone could open any business; they abolished the licensing and censorship of organs of communication, so that anyone could write or say anything in public as well as in private; and they abolished all internal tariffs, so that any product could be moved freely within the country.
Cafés and restaurants, theaters and exhibition halls, concert series and serial publications are some of the sorts of public spaces that perforated the private quarters of Paris during the Revolution. Taking advantage of all the new public spaces, the practitioners of various arts and crafts became performers and used these spaces as settings for the playing of multiple simultaneous blindfold chess games, for the presentation of huge decorative sugar-sculpture centerpieces, for the exposure of the underworld of crime, for the performance of impossibly difficult pieces of music, and for the exhibition of mechanical marvels that imitated human beings in appearance and movement. In sum, they used these spaces to stage an expanding spectrum of spectacles.
A revolution in the valuation of practical knowledge accompanied the social and economic revolutions. In broad terms, the social revolution of late-eighteenth- and early-to-mid-nineteenth-century Western Europe consisted of the slow but pervasive change from aristocratic society to bourgeois society. In aristocratic society one’s place was largely determined by the circumstances of one’s birth: the social class of the family into which one was born, the occupation of the father of the family, the place of one’s birth, the order of one’s birth in relation to siblings, one’s sex. In bourgeois society what mattered most was the size of one’s assets. As a result of this difference, the two societies also differed in the opportunity they offered to individuals to change situations. In the former society one’s situation had been substantially fixed, while in the latter society one had the potential for considerable social mobility. Money was of course the principal means of social mobility in bourgeois society, but one could acquire enough of it to move upward in any of several ways. One could inherit it, earn it in business as an entrepreneur, or earn it in business or government as a professional—that is, as someone with specialized practical knowledge.
The abolition of the guild system, of the licensing and censorship of the organs of communication, and of internal tariffs, although they laid the foundations of the laissez-faire economic system, constituted a legal rather than an economic revolution. The real engine of economic development in the Age of Revolution was industrialization, the conversion from animal power to machine power in the production of goods. Making this conversion required technological innovations and the commercial reproduction of those technological innovations. In reproduction France lagged somewhat behind Great Britain and the United States, but in innovation France led. French science was second to none for at least the first half of the Age of Revolution. In Paris, Lavoisier founded modern chemistry; Champollion deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics; Foucault measured the speed of light; Buffon, Lacépède, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, and Cuvier headed the advance of biology; and Monge, Laplace, Lagrange, and Fourier made innovative applications of mathematics to hydraulics, astronomy, thermodynamics, and other branches of physics. The French also made innovative applications of new knowledge to technology. The balloon ascents of the late eighteenth century arose out of the new chemistry, for example. But while the first gas light was constructed by Philippe Lebon, it was the British who made gas lighting commercially successful. And while the French marquis de Jouffroy d’Abbans built and demonstrated the first operational steamboat as early as 1783, the year of the first manned balloon ascent, it was the American Robert Fulton who built the first commercially successful steamboat, two decades later.
The government of Napoleon Bonaparte was almost as much a technocracy as a military dictatorship. General Bonaparte overthrew the Directory in a coup d’état in 1799, initially calling his regime the Consulate and himself first consul, five years later proclaiming France an empire and himself Emperor Napoleon. As chief of state, he conducted a long series of military campaigns in which he conquered many European countries and intimidated most of the rest into signing treaties favorable to France. But he had been trained as an artillery expert and had almost as much respect for mathematics as he had for tactics. He conducted a domestic modernization campaign, encouraging industry, founding technical schools, and appointing scientists and technical experts as well as generals to head his ministries.
The reorganization of society on the basis of wealth rather than birth, industrialization, and Napoleon’s experiment in technocracy all contributed to the increasing value of practical knowledge in French society. Inventors attracted great celebrity. The École Polytechnique, the national engineering school founded during the Revolution, quickly became the most prestigious school in France and the model for a series of “Grandes Écoles.” Practitioners of every art and craft imagined themselves mechanicians, tinkering with the tools of their trade. Or they imagined themselves authors, publishing handbooks, manuals, encyclopedias, and repertoires of techniques. Or they imagined themselves performers, making agility the basis of a new theatricality. In sum, the appreciation in the value of practical knowledge encouraged individuals to strive to master their world through the cultivation and demonstration of technical skill.
A revolution in the projection of the self accompanied the intellectual and economic revolutions. The Enlightenment is the name of a radiation of ideas that illuminated France and other parts of the Western world in the eighteenth century, more brightly in the second half than in the first. Among the leading lights of the French constellation were Diderot, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire, La Mettrie, and Condorcet. In general they opposed organized religion and advocated that individuals formulate their own creeds; hence, they were anti-priest but not for the most part antireligious, although they undoubtedly contributed to the secularization of French society. They championed tolerance for dissenting beliefs and opinions, education for a larger proportion of the population and a less dogmatic curriculum, a more equitable legal system with more rights for commoners and fewer privileges for aristocrats and clerics, and the free exchange of ideas. They strongly believed in and encouraged progress in the arts, sciences, and crafts, and they preached the dignity of all useful labor, whether spiritual, mental, or physical.
Partly in reaction to the Enlightenment, another radiation of ideas be-gan in the second half of the eighteenth century but did not reach full intensity until the first half of the nineteenth. If the ideas of Romanticism consisted more of heat than of light, this did not make them any less important. No significant improvements could have occurred in French or Western society without ardent supporters of such improvements. Rousseau was the leading early- or pre-Romantic in France, where, later, Hugo in literature, Berlioz in music, and Delacroix in painting figured among the most productive generators of Romanticism, which issued from the fine arts. Romanticism propagated among a large number of individuals the idea that one’s own life and activities have great value, and that the more energy and feeling one puts into one’s life and activities the better; and it propagated in society at large the idea that people of accomplishment are society’s real aristocrats and that a genius is a demigod.
Both the Enlightenment and Romanticism, through their emphasis on the value of personal achievement at the expense of the values of family tradition and social hierarchy, contributed to the democratic revolution, to the industrial revolution, to the bourgeois revolution, and most of all to the new self-centered worldview. Before the Age of Revolution, most people’s social worldview had at its center the king or the pope, the local lord or priest, or the head of one’s family. One saw oneself more or less distant from, dependent on, subordinate to—in short, revolving around—that center. But during the Age of Revolution many people began to believe that self-fulfillment rather than obedience to another was their proper function, and to see themselves at the center of their world.
The transformation of the economy worked in conjunction with intellectual movements to spread the new self-centered worldview. Handle in hand with the industrial revolution went an agricultural revolution. In the second half of the eighteenth century, for the first time in history, a human society succeeded in increasing the yield of its food crops to the point of making itself immune from famine for the foreseeable future. Over the past two hundred years there has always been sufficient food in the Western world to feed the entire population; what starvation there has been has resulted from unequal distribution. Similarly, there has always been sufficient means to distribute the food, only occasionally unequal will. Concentration of land ownership, introduction of new crops and new winter crops, rotation of different crops on the same plot of land, specialization in cash crops, increased fertilization of crops, selective breed-ing of livestock, and of course new machinery, all contributed to the agricultural revolution. With more food being produced by fewer people, the “surplus labor” of the countryside migrated to the cities to tend the engines of industry rather than the animals of agriculture, thus contributing to industrialization. More people could also be fed, so many more in fact that the population exploded. The population of Europe expanded from 105 million in 1700 to 120 million in 1750 to 180 million in 1800 to 265 million in 1850, increases of 15 million, 60 million, and 85 million in successive half-centuries. The population of France expanded slightly less rapidly, from 19 million in 1700 to 22 million in 1750 to 27 million in 1800 to 35 million in 1850, increases of 3 million, 5 million, and 8 million in successive half-centuries. The real explosion took place in the largest cities, such as Paris, which only grew from 530,000 in 1700 to 550,000 in 1800, or less than 5 percent in a full century, but then grew from 550,000 in 1800 to 1,300,000 in 1851, or more than 100 percent in just half a century.
More people, people living closer together, and a rising standard of living, if not yet for the majority then at least for a substantial minority, brought about a phenomenal intensification of communication. Books, magazines, newspapers, broadsheets, engravings, plays, concerts, exhibitions, and expositions rained down, saturating the public with the ideas of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. The swollen media, press and theater, bearing a new message, the self-centered worldview, produced waves of advertising, upstaging, and autobiography in a whirlpool of self-promotion.
Like industrialization, the conversion to bourgeois society, and the radiation of new ideas, democratization in France took place over a long period of time in France. These were revolutions not in the sense of rapid change but in the sense of radical change. The transition to democracy that began with the Revolution of 1789 took most of a century to complete. In 1814 the Great Powers of Europe, having deposed Napoleon, restored the old monarchy in France, with Louis XVIII as the first king of this Restoration. But the monarchy was now a constitutional monarchy as in Britain, not an absolute monarchy as it had been, or as still existed in Austria, Prussia, and Russia. When King Charles X, who succeeded to the throne in 1824, tried to make the monarchy absolute again he was overthrown in a popular revolution, called the Revolution of 1830 or the July Revolution. That event marked the end of the Restoration and the beginning of the July Monarchy. The July Monarchy had only one monarch, King Louis-Philippe, a close relative of the preceding kings but quite reconciled to constitutional government. However, his regime favored the interests of the wealthy, the only segment of the population with the right to vote. Yet another revolution, the Revolution of 1848, overthrew him and led to the founding of the Second Republic, in which the government was to be elected by universal men’s suffrage. This enlarged electorate chose as president Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, who in 1851 reestablished authoritarian government in a coup d’état, calling his regime the Second Empire and himself Emperor Napoleon III. Only in 1871 did France become a democracy more or less permanently, upon the founding of the Third Republic. Like the revolution in politics, the three revolutions that are examined in this study—the revolution in the appropriation of space, the revolution in the valuation of practical knowledge, and the revolution in the projection of the self—were prolonged but profound.
The present study elaborates the conventional concept of the virtuoso, most commonly applied to musicians, into a more carefully defined type, and applies it to individuals in a wide variety of occupations. Doing this enables us to perceive patterns that histories of a single art, a single aspect of society, or a single revolution do not show. We discover in the same place at around the same time but in very different social spheres common behaviors: spectacle-making, the cultivation of technical skill, self-promotion. We discover in association with the various political, economic, social, and intellectual revolutions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Western society common developments: a proliferation of public spaces, an appreciation in the value of practical knowledge, a dissemination of the self-centered worldview. Moving back and forth across the conventional boundaries that have been laid down between disciplines, we discover a more variegated and verisimilar texture of life than histories that respect those boundaries show us. We see an original picture of the Age of Revolution.
History that is deeply interdisciplinary is not common, but it does exist. Carl E. Schorske’s Fin-de-siècle Vienna (1980), which treats literature, architecture and urban design, politics, psychology, painting, and music as they developed in Vienna around the turn of the twentieth century, is a model of interdisciplinary history. Professor Schorske gives this explanation of his method:
Like Schorske’s, the present history proceeds from one post-hole to the next. It takes up chess in chapter 1, cooking in chapter 2, crime detection in chapter 3, musical performance in chapter 4, and automaton-building in chapter 5. The focus in each chapter is on one or a few of the leading practitioners and their places in the history of their fields. Schorske’s explanation continues:
The conviction that, to maintain the analytic vitality of intellectual history as a field, I would have to approach it by a kind of post-holing, examining each area of the field in its own terms, determined the strategy of my inquiry. Hence these studies took form from separate research forays into distinct branches of cultural activity—first literature, then city planning, then the plastic arts, and so on.
He fulfills his implied promise, reconstructing in convincing fashion his subjects’ common ground. He does this in the same chapters that consider “distinct branches of cultural activity,” while the present history uses a separate set of chapters to give an account of a “shared social experience.” Chapter 6 situates the virtuosos’ spectacle-making in the context of the proliferation of public spaces; chapter 7, their cultivation of technical skill in the context of the appreciation in the value of practical knowledge; and chapter 8, their self-promotion in the context of the dissemination of the self-centered worldview. All together then, the present history consists of a set of five diachronic essays that emphasize “the autonomy of fields and their internal changes” and another set of three essays that cross the boundaries between fields in order to establish the “synchronic relations among them.” Each of the eight essays elaborates its own individual thesis and also serves the aims of the study as a whole.
But had I attended only to the autonomy of fields and their internal changes, the synchronic relations among them might have been lost. The fertile ground of the cultural elements, and the basis of their cohesion, was a shared social experience in the broadest sense.
There are three principal aims of the study as a whole. The first is to show that a variety of prominent individuals working at around the same time but in different fields had certain striking similarities, justifying the categorization of them under one rubric: virtuosos.
The second aim is to suggest that Paris during the Age of Revolution was exceptionally rich in virtuosity. Other individuals with the same characteristics have of course worked in other places at other times. Their numbers, their loci, and how they may have differed from the subjects of this study would require other studies to determine. Since “rich” is a comparative term and since studies of virtuosity in other historical locations are lacking—in short, since there are no good bases for comparison—this study can only hypothesize that Paris during the Age of Revolution was unusually rich in virtuosity.
The third aim is to connect the common characteristics of the virtuosos studied here to the social and cultural tendencies of the historical milieu that favored their appearance. More specifically, the aim is to show that certain developments permeating Paris during the Age of Revolution nurtured what appears, at least, to have been an unusual growth of virtuosity. Again, nothing more than a hypothesis can be advanced. It is difficult to imagine what would constitute proof of connections between such phenomena as are the subject of this study. Yet to refuse to hypothesize about them would be to sacrifice a large part of the interest of it. Whence came the contemporaneous and strikingly similar shoots of virtuosity, if not out of a common ground of social and cultural elements?
The temptation is great, greater than in the case of many other historical subjects, to judge the virtuosos either heroes or villains. A certain ambivalence is associated with the very words “virtuoso” and “virtuosity” and their French cognates virtuose and virtuosité. These words all derive from the Italian word virtù, or rather from a particular Italian Renaissance meaning of virtù: “will power, moral energy, a bold and informed resoluteness of purpose, overcoming every difficulty” (forza d’animo, energia morale, decisione coraggiosa e cosciente per cui l’uomo persegue lo scopo che si è proposto, superando ogni difficoltà). Virtù could also mean, of course, “disposition to do good” (disposizione a fare il bene). Similarly, “virtue” in modern English and vertu in modern French can mean either “effective force or power” or “goodness; conformity to standard morality.”  Because of the moral and aesthetic ambiguity of their activities, inherent in the word used to characterize them, the virtuosos of the Age of Revolution inspire in their observers now attraction, now aversion, now both simultaneously.
As human beings observing other human beings in another time, place, or culture, our first task is to try to understand what the values of those others are. We should not judge before we understand what we are judging. The first task of a historian is to try simply to describe the people of another period of history and their culture.
Of course we frequently cannot avoid reacting favorably or unfavorably to what we see almost as soon as we see it. But when we have a strong reaction we should ask ourselves why that is. When we are observing a distant world, we often react favorably or unfavorably to something in it because that something reminds us, usually unconsciously, of something in the world immediately around us for which we have a well-established preference or aversion. In other words, we feel the same emotion when we see a familiar color, shape, or texture on a strange object as when we see it on a familiar object. Turning our gaze from our own world to the distant world of Paris in the Age of Revolution, we will repeatedly see familiar characteristics and a familiar virtue.
All translations of quotations from other languages into English are the author’s unless otherwise noted.
1. The first manned balloon flight took place over Paris on 15 October 1783, when Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier ascended in a balloon made by Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. Pilâtre de Rozier later ascended in balloons of his own making, as did several other French aeronauts. Henry Dale, Early Flying Machines (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 12–18. [BACK]
2. In the process of gaining independence from Denmark, Norway, as “a free, independent, and indivisible kingdom,” was united with Sweden under the same king; only in 1905 did it get its own king. [BACK]
3. Historians differ somewhat in their dating of the beginning of the Reign of Terror; the beginning date used here is taken from Jean Tulard, Jean-François Fayard, and Alfred Fierro, Histoire et dictionnaire de la Révolution française, 1789–1799 (Paris: Laffont, 1987), pp. 1113–14. The authoritative body count, 16,594, is that of Donald Greer, The Incidence of the Terror during the French Revolution: A Statistical Interpretation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1935), p. 26. [BACK]
4. Regimes subsequent to the Revolution revived licensing and censorship with varying degrees of restrictiveness, but the guild system and the internal customs network were dead. [BACK]
5. For population figures for Europe: Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, Atlas of World Population History (Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1978), p. 18. For population figures for France: R. R. Palmer and Joel Colton, A History of the Modern World (New York: Knopf, 1984), p. 966; Gordon Wright, France in Modern Times (New York: Norton, 1981), pp. 14, 179; B. R. Mitchell, European Historical Statistics (New York: Facts on File, 1975), p. 30. For population figures for Paris: Tertius Chandler and Gerald Fox, Three Thousand Years of Urban Growth (New York: Academic Press, 1974), pp. 17–20; Louis Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris During the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, trans. Frank Jellinek (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 181–82. [BACK]
6. This procedure is modeled on Max Weber’s methodology of the “ideal type.” For an explanation of this methodology: Max Weber, “‘Objectivity’ in Social Science and Social Policy,” in Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans. and ed. Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch (New York: Free Press, 1949). For an example of its use: Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Scribner, 1958). [BACK]
7. Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Vintage, 1981), pp. xxii–xxiii. [BACK]
8. Nicola Zingarelli, Il Nuovo Zingarelli: Vocabolario della lingua italiana (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1988), p. 2155. One can see very clearly in Benvenuto Cellini how virtù in the Italian Renaissance sense of “will power” may have evolved into “virtuoso” in the modern sense (in English, French, German, and Italian) of “a person with masterly technique or skill in the arts.” In his autobiography, Cellini frequently uses the word virtù to mean “will power,” and the word virtuoso to mean “a person with will power.” He also frequently shows himself exercising great virtù in this sense, advancing his own claim to be a Renaissance virtuoso. He exercised this virtù especially in his artistic practice, where his acquisition of great technical skill in goldsmithery and sculpture made him a virtuoso in the modern sense. [BACK]
9. William Morris, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (New York: American Heritage, 1969), p. 1432; A. Rey and J. Rey-Debove, eds., Le Petit Robert: Dictionnaire alphabétique et analogique de la langue française (Paris: Le Robert, 1988), p. 2084. [BACK]