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Michelangelo Madonna Child

Pitti Tondo
Michelangelo 1503
Bargello, Florence

Michelangelo's Pitti Tondo | John Robinson

Josef Marek

It just so happened that one of Georgina’s Czech artists, Joseph Marek, was coming to London to deliver one of his pieces for the Glass Art 2002 catalogue. She thought he would know if it was possible to cast a glass Tondo and maybe he would be the right person to do the job. With the help of my son Peter we manhandled the 400 lbs marble, together with the rubber mould I had done in Italy, into a station wagon and drove up to London. The joint reaction to the marble was enthusiastic and as Josef thought he could cast it in glass, we transferred the rubber mould into his car so he could take it back to Prague.

Plan to visit Prague

We told Josef that we would visit him at his studio near Prague when the positive wax he would take from the rubber mould was ready to inspect. I also asked him also to prepare some azure blue samples of glass so we could choose which one to use.

Carving the pupils

It was now time to carve the pupils on the Tondo. I felt a little nervous as I had never carved marble nor did I have any of the right tools. Should I buy an electric engraver like those used by people who write labels or just gently scratch away with my penknife? I decided the answer would come with action so I tried the penknife approach first, as I was frightened by the idea of a spinning drill jumping out of control. I was surprised just how soft the marble was, finding it only a little harder than dental plaster.

Kitchen scissors

Having discovered that the material was quite soft, I searched for a tool that would do the job. I needed a sharp high tensile steel chisel with a point that had a right angle on one side and was curved on the other. The perfect tool turned out to be the top blade of a pair of kitchen scissors. It took about an hour to finish the first pupil. I was thrilled with the result as Mary now had one perfect live eye with which to look at me. The next step was to make sure that she avoided a squint, so very carefully I cut a larger triangle than necessary which would allow me to go a fraction one way or the other to correct her gaze. This done I turned to the children’s eyes, which I did very faintly just giving a suggestion of a pupil. It was time to call Margie over to the studio and get a second opinion. She was as pleased as I was.

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© John Robinson/Edition Limitee 2007
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