80 x 19 cm

The plaster cast of Michelangelo’s Taddei tondo.

Giorgio Vasari (1511—1574), the renowned biographer of the Italian artists, states that while Michelangelo was working on his statue of David in Florence, he carved two blocks of marble, which he used to sculpture a magnificent albeit unfinished tondo between 1504-1505. The work received its name from Taddeo Taddei, the man who commissioned it. Taddei was a wealthy textile merchant and patron of the arts, who had supported Raffaello among others. The relief portrays the face of the Virgin viewed from the side. In her lap sits the Infant Jesus, who is anxiously reclining. The cause of his alarm is the goldfinch held by the child John the Baptist. Presaging the fate of the Savior, the bird symbolizes the suffering and crucifixion of Christ. The relief’s unfinishedness is particularly noticeable in the figure of John the Baptist, who melts into the background. Art historians have suggested that Michelangelo had received so many commissions that he lacked time to finish the sculpture. On the other hand, the artist may have consciously decided to leave it unfinished, to evoke the “non-finito” aesthetics rooted in classical Platonic philosophy. The tondo is now exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts, London.