The TADDEI TONDO or THE VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH THE INFANT ST JOHN is a
marble relief tondo (circular composition) by Italian Renaissance
Michelangelo Buonarroti . Part of the permanent collection of
Royal Academy of Arts in
London , it is the only marble sculpture
Great Britain . A "perfect demonstration" of his
carving technique , the work delivers a "powerful emotional and
* 1 Physical history
* 2 Description
* 3 Reception and influence
* 4 Gallery
* 5 See also
* 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 8 External links
The tondo dates to Michelangelo\'s time in
Florence before his move
Rome in 1505. According to
Vasari , while working on his David ,
"also at this time he blocked out but did not finish two marble tondi,
one for Taddeo Taddei, today in his house, and for Bartolomeo Pitti he
began another ... which works were considered outstanding and
To the lower right of the back of the relief is a ligature combining
the letters L and A, probably the mark of another carver or dealer,
and most likely the initials of Lapo d'Antonio di Lapo, active at the
Opera del Duomo and for a short period in 1506/7 one of Michelangelo's
assistants. A chisel blow on the reverse seemingly from this earlier
phase resulted in a hairline crack in the face of the Virgin that may
only have become apparent as carving progressed. It is uncertain
whether Michelangelo, known for his concern for his materials, was
constrained by a shortage of ready alternatives or more accepting of
flaws and confident in his ability to work round them after his
success with the damaged block for David. The missing segment to the
bottom right may be a result of an excess of his celebrated "direct
attack", while the five holes in the outer rim are variously dated
and were intended for fixings.
In 1568 the tondo was still in the Palazzo Taddei, but by 1678 the
family had moved to a new address near San Remigio . At an unknown
date the tondo was taken to Rome, where it was acquired from
Jean-Baptiste Wicar by Sir George Beaumont in 1822. Initially hung at
Beaumont's house in
Grosvenor Square , it was bequeathed to the
Academy in 1830 and installed at
Somerset House , before moving with
the Academy to the east wing of the new National Gallery building in
1836, where it remained until the Academy relocated to Burlington
House in 1868. It has been housed and displayed in various locations
there ever since, except for an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert
Museum in 1960. The discovery of the hairline crack running through
the upper half of the marble contributed to the decision in 1989 to
provide a permanent home for the tondo. Subsequently the tondo was
cleaned with dichloromethane swabs and clay poultices to remove
residues of nineteenth-century plaster casts and their oil-based
release agents , packing materials, traces of beeswax and pine resin
adhesives, and other surface accretions. The tondo was left unwaxed
and no other coating applied, as the work is not "finished" and was
not originally polished. Since the opening of the Sackler Wing of
Galleries in 1991, the tondo has been on free public display in a
purpose-built area on the top floor, positioned for reasons of
preventive conservation behind protective glass, to combat the effects
of air pollution and the possibility of vandalism .
The tondo as a format for painting and relief sculpture was a
quintessential product of the Florentine Renaissance. For a century
from around 1430 all the leading artists, including
Filippo Lippi ,
Luca Signorelli ,
Piero di Cosimo
Piero di Cosimo ,
Fra Bartolomeo ,
Andrea del Sarto
Andrea del Sarto ,
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci (in a lost work), and
painted tondi. In the same few years that
Michelangelo executed his
only panel painting documented in contemporary sources, the Doni tondo
, he sculpted the Pitti and Taddei tondi - but he did not return to
The tondo depicts a seated
Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus
dynamically sprawled across her lap, turning and looking back over his
right shoulder towards the infant
Saint John the Baptist , who stands
before him looking down and holding a fluttering bird. Compositionally
, the eye of the viewer is drawn diagonally along Christ's body, back
up that of his mother, with her gaze across to John, and from his face
back to Christ. John, patron saint of Florence, with his attribute of
a baptismal bowl, crosses his arms, perhaps in allusion to the cross .
Most likely it is a goldfinch not a dove that he holds - Christian
symbolism sees in this bird a representation of the Passion - the
piece of marble below might then have been intended as a crown of
Executed with only a point and claw chisel , often driven hard and
with great energy, the combination helps create a sense of "surface
unity" unbroken by the use of the drill. The Christ child in full
relief is highly finished, the shallower relief of the Virgin finished
to a lesser degree, St. John more so again, while the background is
roughly executed. These marked variations in texture help establish
the relative status of the three figures while creating a sense of
compositional depth all the greater for not being more conventionally
Many of Michelangelo's works are unfinished. According to
nineteenth-century French sculptor and critic Eugène Guillaume ,
Michelangelo's "non finito" was "one of the master's expressive
devices in his quest for infinite suggestiveness".
RECEPTION AND INFLUENCE
Taddeo Taddei was patron and friend of Raphael, who studied and
reworked the tondo in two drawings, the versi of The Storming of
Perugia in the
Louvre and of compositional studies for the Madonna del
Chatsworth House .
Raphael returned to the twisting body of
the Christ child stretching across his mother's lap in the Bridgewater
Madonna. Shortly after its arrival in England, the tondo was sketched
by Wilkie , who wrote to Beaumont "your important acquisition of the
basso-relievo of Michael Angelo is still the chief talk of all our
artists. It is indeed a great addition to our stock of art, and is the
only work that has appeared in this northern latitude to justify the
great reputation of its author". Cockerell noted in his diary how
"the subject seems growing from the marble & emerging into life. It
assumes by degrees its shape, features from an unformed mass, as it
were you trace plaster casts may be found at the Victoria and Albert
Fitzwilliam Museum .
Sketch by Sir David Wilkie (c.1823)
John Constable (1830)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to TADDEI TONDO .
* ^ "et ancora in questo tempo abbozzò e non finì due tondi di
marmo, uno a Taddeo Taddei, oggi in casa sua, et a Bartolomeo Pitti ne
cominciò un altro... le quali opere furono tenute egregie e mirabili"
* ^ A B "The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, ca.
Royal Academy of Arts . Retrieved 6 April 2015.
* ^ A B C D E F G Larson, John (1991). "The Cleaning of
Michelangelo's Taddei tondo".
The Burlington Magazine . 133 (1065):
JSTOR 885064 .
* ^ A B C Hall, James (6 April 2012). "Unfinished Business". The
Wall Street Journal . Retrieved 6 April 2015.
* ^ A B Hirst, Michael (2005). "The
Marble for Michelangelo's
The Burlington Magazine . 147 (1229): 548–549. JSTOR
* ^ Easton, Malcolm (1969). "The Taddei Tondo: A Frightened
Jesus?". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Warburg
Institute . 32: 391–393.
JSTOR 750622 . doi :10.2307/750622 .
* ^ Smart, Alastair (1967). "Michelangelo: the Taddeo Taddei
'Madonna' and the National Gallery 'Entombment'". Journal of the Royal
Society of Arts.
Royal Society of Arts . 115 (5135): 835–862. JSTOR
* ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1550). Lives of the Most Excellent Painters,
Sculptors, and Architects (in Italian). p. 400.
* ^ A B C Lightbown, Ronald W. (1969). "Michelangelo\'s Great
Tondo: Its Origins and Setting". Apollo . 89: 22–31.
* ^ "The Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries".
Sackler.org. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
* ^ A B Olson, Roberta J. M. (1993). "Lost and Partially Found: The
Tondo, a Significant Florentine Art Form, in Documents of the
Artibus et Historiae .
IRSA . 14 (27): 31–65. JSTOR
1483444 . doi :10.2307/1483444 .
* ^ Olson, Roberta J. M. (2000). The Florentine Tondo. Oxford
University Press . pp. 161–165. ISBN 978-0198174257 .
* ^ Chapman, Hugo (2006).
Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the
British Museum Press . pp. 75–77. ISBN 978-0714126487 .
* ^ Friedmann, Herbert (1946). The Symbolic Goldfinch: Its History
and Significance in European Devotional Art.
Pantheon Books .
* ^ Schulz, Juergen (1975). "Michelan