Doni Madonna by Michelangelo
Michelangelo's Doni Madonna (c. 1503), created to celebrate Florentine weaver Agnolo Doni's wedding, borrows its composition from Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of Madonna and St. Anne, which Michelangelo must have seen while in Florence working on David. Michelangelo also clearly drew from his work in sculpture, as evident in the foreground figures, which create a startling three-dimensional effect, fairly springing forth from their circular frame. This work is the only preserved panel picture that Michelangelo painted entirely himself.
The symbolism of the picture has been widely debated. What is clear is that the picture was meant to extol the virtues of a Christian marriage through its focus on the holy family. It has also been observed that Mary and Joseph seem to be presenting the child as a "gift" to the world in a way that may allude to the patron's name (doni in Italian means "gifts").
Circular scenes of the Madonna and the infancy of Christ (tondi, meaning "round") were popularized in Florence and symbolized marriage in Renaissance art. While the rich symbolism of this piece has encouraged many interpretations, what is of greater importance is the artist's handling of the figures. In the highly polished surfaces and sculptural quality of the group in the foreground, Michelangelo reveals his passion for translating his sculptural sensibilities into painting. The family group advances toward the viewer with such three-dimensional force that it seems to defy the very flatness of the painted surface.