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The Doni Tondo Essay

1256 words - 6 pages

In the contemporary art world, where artists bring interdisciplinary elements and combine them in a mixture of genius and creativity, three and two-dimensional pieces are by no means exclusive in nature. The Donni Tondo, Michelangelo Buonarroti's tempera on panel with oil flourishes, although characteristically High Renaissance, projects a legacy of exploration and growth that may appeal to contemporary artists whose artistic sensibilities favor the combination of artistic platforms. Michelangelo’s portrayal of The Holy Family embodies the essence of his artistic orientations, and provides us with a glimpse into the mind of such a multifaceted man. His genius and excellent craftsmanship seem to exhibit his artistic might and abilities in such a manner, as to demand respect and recognition in his young yet very successful career as a sculptor, as well as a painter. The Doni Madonna offers us insight into Michelangelo's artistic point of reference; not as the unapproachable and idealized genius, but as a growing artist.
The Doni Tondo, which now resides in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, is known by the renowned and influential family name that commissioned the tondo. The gilded frame, which Michelangelo undoubtedly designed and assisted carving, features his abilities as a painter, as well as a sculptor, through the intricate treatment of the wood carving (see Figure 1). The work's patron, Agnolo Doni, commissioned the piece as a wedding gift to his young bride around 1503-1504. A recurrent shape in domestic decorative arts of the Renaissance, the tondo, Italian for round, emphasizes the secular and homely environment in which the work would be displayed. Moreover, the domestic quality of the painting is further portrayed in the intimate manner in which the Holy Family is depicted: Joseph standing behind Mary, who occupies the center of the composition, while he passes forward the infant Jesus to his expectant mother. Although a distinctly religious painting, with the inevitable iconography of the Virgin Mary, the Doni Madonna sheds away all notions of passing as a devotional object, and embraces an air of familiarity not often seen during the Renaissance.
That being said, with the Donni Tondo, we see Michelangelo as a confident and assured young artist, but not immune to the art movements of the time. Influences from Leonardo Da Vinci's cartoon for The Virgin and Child with St. Anne are evident (Figure 3 and 4). In fact, the young Michelangelo must have felt quite intimidated by Leonardo's seasoned artistry and intellect. Although composition-wise, the painting features a similar pyramid arrangement to that of the cartoon, as well as an analogous siting placement, it is important to note how unlike Leonardo, Michelangelo was. While Da Vinci's sfumato softened harsh lines by allowing tones and colors to shade gradually into each other (Figure 5); Buonarroti's hatching and crosshatching produced the chiaroscuro effect in a much bolder and...

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