Cellini, Salt Cellar, 1543

Content and Context

Very few commissions of Mannerist sculpture were encouraged.  Italian sculptors paled in comparison to Italian painters.  Cellini's "Salt Cellar" aka "Saliera" has no sculptural counterpart.  Created by Cellini for Francis I of France, it is Cellini's only surviving metalwork.  

The Cellini Salt Cellar depicts Neptune representing the sea (the source of salt) and  Ceres(a goddess of agriculture).  The boat next to Neptune's leg contains salt.  The triumphal arch next to the right leg of the earth goddess holds pepper.   The small breasted goddess, long necks, elongated human forms show Cellini's clear connection to Mannerist style.

Mannerism Style

Derived from the Italian "maniera" meaning "style."  Mannerism is sometimes defined as the "stylish style" because of its emphasis on artificial versus realistic depictions.  Elongated, elegant anatomical forms are hallmarks of this style.   


The Salt Cellar was stolen from the Kunsthistorisches Museum during a period of renovation on the Museum galleries.  The thief smashes a window to enter the museum, broke the display case for the sculpture, and was able to escape using scaffolding that covered the building.   An alarm was sounded after the theft, but a security guard failed to follow protocol and simply turned off the alarm.  Mang was successful because "a sleepy security" guard didn't do his duty."


The thief, Robert Mang, was in possession of the sculpture for nearly three years.  He tried twice to collect a ransom of 1.2 million dollars for the piece.   Police were able to trace Mr. Mang by circulating photos from a security camera that showed him purchasing the cell phone used for the attempts to collect ransom.   When these photos appeared in news, Mr. Mang turned himself in.  He led authorities into a forest in Vienna where he buried the sculpture inside of a lead box.


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