Doni Tondo

Painting by Michelangelo

The Doni Tondo or Doni Madonna, is the only finished panel painting by the mature Michelangelo to survive. (Two other panel paintings, generally agreed to be by Michelangelo but unfinished, the Entombment and the so-called Manchester Madonna, are both in the National Gallery in London.) Now in the Uffizi in Florence, Italy, and still in its original frame, the Doni Tondo was probably commissioned by Agnolo Doni to commemorate his marriage to Maddalena Strozzi, the daughter of a powerful Tuscan family. The painting is in the form of a tondo, meaning in Italian, 'round', a shape which is frequently associated during the Renaissance with domestic ideas.

The work was most likely created during the period after Doni's marriage in 1503 or 1504, and before the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes were begun in 1508. The Doni Tondo portrays the Holy Family (the child Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) in the foreground, along with John the Baptist in the middle-ground, and contains five nude male figures in the background. The inclusion of these nude figures has been interpreted in a variety of ways.

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Description

Mary is the most prominent figure in the composition, taking up much of the center of the image. She sits directly on the ground without a cushion between herself and the grass, to better communicate the theme of her relationship to the earth (?). Joseph is positioned higher in the image than Mary, although this is an unusual feature in compositions of the Holy Family. Mary is seated between his legs, as if he is protecting her, his great legs forming a kind of de facto throne. There is some debate as to whether Mary is receiving the Child from Joseph or vice versa. Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, is very commonly included in Florentine works depicting the Madonna and Child. He is in the middle-ground of the painting, between the Holy Family and the background. The scene appears to be a rural one, with the Holy Family enjoying themselves on the grass and separated from the curiously (seemingly) unrelated group at the back by a low wall.

The painting is still in its original frame, one that Michelangelo might have influenced or helped design. The frame is ornately carv... ...read more

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