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Michelangelo Madonna Child

Pitti Tondo
Michelangelo 1503
Bargello, Florence

Michelangelo's Pitti Tondo | John Robinson

Michelangelo finish

The Pieta in St Peter’s Rome and the Madonna in Bruges both have the same highly worked finish. The Pitti Tondo was carved in 1503 in what is sometimes called the Michelangelo finish, where the surface shows fine chisel marks while in some places the background is very rough, almost hacked out. For me the fine chisel marks of the Pitti Tondo make the faces come alive. Maybe this was the first time Michelangelo tried his famous unfinished look. It is fun to think that this is a possibility.


In 1503 Leonardo returned to Florence from Milan where he had recently completed the painting of The Last Supper. Leonardo and Michelangelo were poles apart as men. Leonardo was illegitimate and brought up in the small country village of Vinci by his peasant grandparents. Michelangelo, on the other hand, came from a well-connected Florentine family and was raised by Lorenzo Medici as a son in his own house. When Leonardo arrived in Florence Michelangelo must have finished the Pitti Tondo and started working on the David, because he completed it by the end of 1503.

Board of Inspectors

Interestingly, the Medici never commissioned any work from Leonardo, although in 1504 he was chosen as a member of the Board of Inspectors that met to advise on a site for the David. Was it to be positioned in the Loggia della Signoria with Cellini’s Perseus or outside the Castle, where the copy now stands? Leonardo apparently was in favour of the Loggia, while Michelangelo wanted it to be in the more prominent position in front of the Castle.

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