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Sir David Wilkie RA, Sketch of Michelangelo's Taddei tondo

Sketch of Michelangelo's Taddei tondo, c. 1823?

Sir David Wilkie RA (1785 - 1841)

RA Collection: Art

A pen and ink sketch of the 'Taddei tondo' by Michelangelo, in the Royal Academy collection. Wilkie sketched the tondo quite rapidly but his drawing nevertheless clearly depicts the figures of the Virgin and Child on the right and the infant St. John on the left. Unlike John Constable, who made a similar sketch of this sculpture in 1830, Wilkie used dark shading to show greater depth of relief in certain areas of the sculpture and, in the background, his hatched lines hint at the areas of rough stone left unfinished by Michelangelo.

The famous sculpture was bequeathed to the Royal Academy by Sir George Beaumont and delivered to Somerset House at the end of June 1830. Beaumont acquired the Taddei tondo in Italy in 1822 and subsequently brought it to England where numerous artists and other guests had the opportunity to view it in the picture gallery of his house at No. 34 Grosvenor Square. Wilkie probably made this sketch soon after he first saw the sculpture. He wrote enthusiastically to Beaumont on January 12th 1823:

'Your important acquisition of the basso-relievo of Michael Angelo is still the chief talk of all our artists. It is indeed a great addition to our stock of art, and is the only work that has appeared in this northern latitude to justify the great reputation of its author. The sight of this fine work of art has rekindled in me a strong wish to make a visit to the Continent before long, with a view to going to Italy'.

Wilkie's biographer Allan Cunningham added, 'I remember with what delight Sir George Beaumont exhibited this all but divine work, and spoke of the influence which it exercised over his friend Wilkie'. Cunningham is referring to the fact that the artist soon afterwards embarked on a tour of Italy and the Continent in 1825.

Further reading:

A. Cunningham, The Life of Sir David Wilkie; with his journals, tours, and critical remarks on works of art; and a selection from his correspondence, London1843, Vol. II, pp. 97-8

Sidney C. Hutchison, The History of the Royal Academy 1768–1968, London 1968, p. 97

The Morning Herald, 2 June 1830

Object details

Sketch of Michelangelo's Taddei tondo
Sir David Wilkie RA (1785 - 1841)
c. 1823?
Object type
Pen and brown ink on wove paper

c. 130 mm x 168 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by David Wilkie Esq Probably 1954

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