(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)
Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist (Taddei Tondo)1505-06
Marble, diameter: 82,5 cm
The Royal Academy of Arts, London
This tondo explores the problems of composing a meaningful group within a circle, with a precise definition of the spatial planes and relationships within the picture space. The Doni Tondo, his only finished panel painting, and another marble relief, the Pitti Tondo deal with the same problems.
This tondo remained unfinished, but it is precisely its unfinished state which wonderfully reveals Michelangelo's mastery in the sculptural details. The motif is a mysterious one, toying with antique putti as models: Jesus runs away from the little bird held out by the infant St John into Mary's arms, hardly fitting in with the image of the dignified redeemer of the world. Mary is conceived of in an equally unusual way. Her turban and her top-garment which covers only one shoulder are less in accordance with the iconography of the Mother of God than with classical female figures.