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Exceptional loan announced

Issued March 2017

Michelangelo’s ‘Taddei Tondo’ to appear in ‘The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano’

The only marble sculpture by Michelangelo in Great Britain – 'The Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist', also known as the 'Taddei Tondo' – has been announced as an exceptional loan to The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano (opens 15 March 2017).

The work has been a key part of the Royal Academy collection since it was bequeathed by Sir George Beaumont, entering the collection in 1829. It has only ever been lent once in the 188 years since, and that was over 50 years ago (in 1966) to an exhibition on the Tondo at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says:

“We are very excited to present Michelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece in the National Gallery’s exhibition. Dynamic and delicate, the 'Taddei Tondo' is one of the most important Renaissance works of art in Britain.”

Christopher Le Brun, President of the Royal Academy of Arts, said:

“The 'Taddei Tondo' is one of the most significant treasures in the Royal Academy’s collection. We are delighted to be working with the National Gallery on this major loan to their exhibition, which will provide new and fresh ways of looking at this remarkable sculpture as well as introducing it to wider audiences, before it returns to the RA to be re-displayed as part of our 250th anniversary in 2018.”

The work was commissioned by Taddeo Taddei around 1504/05 in Florence. At this time he also executed two other circular compositions: a painting, the 'Doni Tondo' (Uffizi, Florence) and a marble relief, the 'Pitti Tondo' (Bargello, Florence).

At the left side of the Tondo stands the infant figure of Saint John the Baptist, with his attribute of a baptismal bowl. He presents a goldfinch (representing the Passion) to the infant Christ, who momentarily turns away, towards his mother, as though symbolically anticipating his future destiny.

The 'Taddei Tondo' is one of several unfinished sculptural works by Michelangelo, which, since the 16th century, have been the focus of much scholarly debate. It is likely that he abandoned some of his sculptures on account of over-commitment to too many projects. His biographer, Giorgio Vasari, who knew him, suggested that he did not complete certain compositions out of creative frustration, an idea which has crystallised into the notion of the artist as troubled genius.

Matthias Wivel, curator of 'The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano' says:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to show this masterpiece as part of the exhibition. It demonstrates beautifully Michelangelo’s mastery of carving, and the emotional and spiritual clarity of his work. In juxtaposition with Sebastiano’s The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a Donor from the National Gallery’s collection, it sums up perfectly the creative kinship between the two artists: Sebastiano’s synthesis of Michelangelesque figures and Venetian principles of formatting and colouring.”


The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano
15 March – 25 June 2017
North Galleries
Admission charge

This spring the National Gallery presents the first ever exhibition devoted to the creative partnership between Michelangelo (1475–1564) and Sebastiano del Piombo (1485–1547) featuring exceptional loans, some of which have not left their collections for centuries.

'Michelangelo & Sebastiano' explores the complementary talents, yet divergent personalities of the two artists. It encompasses approximately 70 works – paintings, drawings, sculptures and letters – produced by Michelangelo and Sebastiano before, during, and after their association. Examples of their extensive, intimate correspondence offer us a unique insight into their personal and professional lives; their concerns, frustrations, and moments of glory.

For further information, please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or email

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