MICHELANGELO Buonarroti
(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

The Doni Tondo (framed)

c. 1506
Tempera on panel, diameter 120 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Doni tondo is Michelangelo's sole unanimously accepted panel painting. His only other documented easel painting, The Leda and the Swan, seems to have been destroyed and must be reconstructed from autograph drawings and copies. The tondo was probably produced for the same Doni for whom Raphael painted the pair of portraits, now in the Palazzo Pitti.

The Holy Family is in the foreground. The Virgin, a muscular young woman, is turning round with a complicated movement to take the Christ Child Joseph is handing to her over her shoulder. The meaning of this scene is both theologically and philosophically obscure, as is the significance of the naked young men in the background.

The spectacular gilt wood frame, attributed to the Tasso family of woodcarvers, displays the Doni family arms with lions on them intermingled with Strozzi crescents. As well as grotesques, the frame contains the heads of two prophets and two sibyls surmounted by one of Christ. The outstanding quality of these busts - evoking similar figures of Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise - has lead some scholars to believe that Michelangelo may have had a hand in designing the frame.