The Virgin and Child with four angels
- Place of origin:
ca. 1450 (made)
Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466 (artist)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Purchased with the aid of public subscription, with donations from Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust, in memory of David, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64a, The Robert H. Smith Gallery, case 10
By extraordinary good fortune we know the history of this bronze relief. The sculptor Donatello (1385/1386-1466) gave it to his doctor, Giovanni Chellini, in 1456. The physician’s account book, which still exists, records that on 27 August of that year,
'while I was treating Donato called Donatello, the singular and principal master in making figures of bronze of wood and terracotta . . . he of his kindness and in consideration of the medical treatment which I had given and was giving for his illness gave me a roundel the size of a trencher in which was sculpted the Virgin Mary with the Child at her neck and two angels on each side, all of bronze, and on the outer side hollowed out so that melted glass could be cast on to it and would make the same figures as those on the other side.'
The Museum is also very fortunate to possess a marble bust of Giovanni Chellini (Museum no. 7671-1861). It is signed by Antonio Rossellino (1427-1479) and an inscription dates it to 1456, the same year as Donatello’s gift.
Donatello was an exceptionally inventive sculptor, whose style varied during his long career, making it more difficult to securely date undocumented works. A number of other Virgin and Child reliefs are stylistically related to this roundel, and its documenation therefore provides an important guide for dating them. However, Donatello may not have made the relief specifically for Chellini, and the roundel may have been made earlier, possibly when Donatello was working in Padua between 1443 and 1453.
Chellini noted that the hollow reverse was used to cast replicas from molten glass. This is a unique feature, which has been questioned by some art historians. But it was possible to test the statement by casting glass copies from a mould made of the back of the roundel. One of these glass casts is displayed alongside the bronze, so that visitors can touch it.
Roundel depicting the Virgin and Child with four angels. Bronze with gilt decoration. The relief is in the form of a tondo consisting of a decorated moulded rim, with a central scene depicting the Virgin and Child flanked by two angels on each side; all behind a curved railing supported by four posts. The Virgin is crowned and all the figures have haloes; the angel. The angel on the far right offers the Virgin a bowl of food.
Place of Origin
ca. 1450 (made)
Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466 (artist)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
Pseudo Kufic script around the rim
Diameter: 28.5 cm, Depth: 2.7 cm, Weight: 4.26 kg
Object history note
This bronze relief was given by Donatello to his doctor, Giovanni Chellini, in 1456. The physician's account book, which still exists, records that on 27 August of that year, while I was treating Donato called Donatello, the singular and principal master in making figures of bronze of wood and terracotta ... he of his kindness and in consideration of the medical treatment which I had given and was giving for his illness gave me a roundel the size of a trencher in which was sculpted the Virgin Mary with the Child at her neck and two angels on each side, all of bronze, and on the outer side hollowed out so that melted glass could be cast on to it and it would make the same figures as those on the other side. The Museum is also highly fortunate to possess a marble bust of Giovanni Chellini (7671-1861), signed by Antonio Rossellino and dated by inscription to the same year - 1456 - as Donatello's gift. Donatello was a supremely innovative sculptor whose style varied considerably throughout his career. The documentation connected with this roundel provides an important guide for the dating of his other stylistically related Virgin and Child reliefs. It was not necessarily made specifically for Chellini, however, and may date from an earlier period, possibly when Donatello was working in Padua between 1443 and 1453. According to Chellini's testimony cited above, the hollow reverse was used to cast replicas from molten glass. This is a unique feature, but the veracity of Chellini's statement has been confirmed by the making of a mould of the back of the roundel from which glass versions have successfully been cast; one of these is displayed in the Museum alongside the roundel.
Paul Williamson, ed., European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London : V&A, 1996. p. 78, ill. ISBN: 1 85177 188 3.
Historical significance: The object is said by Chellini to have been used to cast glass copies. This has been questioned by Pope-Hennessy, who considered that the surviving stucco copies may have been the only replicas made. There is, however, no reason to doubt the evidence, and the work was therefore probably made while Donatello was in Padua, when he could have collaborated with the Venetian glass makers. The exact nature and intended use of any replicas is unclear, but the Royal College experiment proved that it was possible to use the bronze as such a mould.
Historical context note
The objects was intended for use as a mould for glass copies, but its fugitive decorative border has led to questions being raised about this, and no contemporary glass replicas survive. It was also given as a gift to Dr Chellini in return for medical services. This is a common practice, but also significant in relation to the etiquette of gift-giving.
Roundel, bronze, The Virgin and Child with Four Angels (The Chellini Madonna), by Donatello, probably Padua, about 1450
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Paul Williamson, ed., European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London : V&A, 1996. p. 78
Baker, Malcolm, 'Giambologna, Donatello and the sale of the Gaddi, Marucelli and Stosch bronzes', in: Städel Jahrbuch, Vol 12, 1989, pp. 179-194
Penny, Nicholas, 'Lord Rockingham's Sculpture Collection and the Judgement of Paris by Nollekens', in: The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 19, 1991, pp. 5-34
Avery, Charles. Donatello. Catalogo Completo delle Opere. Florence, 1991, p. 119, cat.no.68
Gentilini, Giancarlo. ed. I Della Robbia, La Scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento. Florence: 1992, pp. 144-5, note 39
Pope-Hennessy, John. Donatello: Sculptor. New York, 1993, pp. 260, 1, 264, 267, n 345, fig. 260, 261
Draper, James David. Bertoldo di Giovanni - Sculptor of the Medici Household. Columbia, 1992, p. 113, (ill) 258
Avery, Charles. Donatello, an Introduction. New York 1994, pp. 82-84
Pope-Hennessy, John. Donatello. Berlin 1986, pp. 222-223
Rosenauer. Artur. Donatello. Milan 1993, pp. 244. 245. 246, 257, 283, 289, 298, 301, 302, 305
Jolly, Anna. Madonnas by Donatello and his Circle. Phd Thesis, Cambridge 1992, pp. 26-27, 29, 36, 44, 67, cat. 31, 111, 119, 123, 170, pl. 58
Poeschke, Joachim. Die Skulptur der Renaissance in Italien, Band I. Donatello und seine Zeit, (Munich, 1990), pp. 117, 137, pl. 130
Pope-Hennessy, John, Learning to Look. My Life in Art, New York, 1991, pp. 112-113
Greenhalgh, Michael, "Donatello in Perspective: The Chellini Madonna, in: History Today, November 1976, pp. 734-742
Baker, Malcolm, 'Collecting, classifying and viewing Bronzes 1700-1850', in: Krahn, Volker (ed.), Von allen Seiten schön. Rückblicke auf Ausstellung und Kolloquium. Band I. Dokumentation zu Ausstellung und Kolloquium, Cologne, 1996, pp. 118, fig. 14
Baker, Malcolm, Figured in Marble. The Making and Viewing of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture, London, 2000, p. 154, pl. 124 and p. 153
Bormand, Marc; Paolozzi Strozzi, Beatrice; Penny, Nicolas. Desiderio da Settignano. Sculptor of Renaissance Florence. Exhibiton Catalogue, Musée du Louvre, Paris; Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence; National Art Gallery, Washington, 2007, p. 62
Greenhalgh, Michael. Donatello and his Sources. London, 1982, pp. 163-165
Radcliffe, Anthony and Avery, Charles, "The Chellini Madonna by Donatello", in: The Burlington Magazine, June 1976, no. 879, vol. CXVIII, pp. 377-87
Motture, Peta, 'Making and Viewing: Donatello and the treatment of relief', pp. 18-29;
in the same volume: Hunt, Katherine, Modern cast of the Chellini roundel in glass, pp.86-7, cat. no.24
Curtis, Penelope, Depth of Field: the place of relief in the time of Donatello, Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2004
Motture, Peta in The Springtime of the Renaissance, exh. cat. Palazzo Strozzi, Florence and Louvre, Paris, Florence 2013, pp.00-00
Williamson, Paul, The NACF and the National Collection of Sculpture. In National Art-Collections Fund Review,1986, p. 82, fig. 6.
Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta and Flora Dennis, At Home in Renaissance Italy, London: V&A Publishing, 2006.
Verdi, Richard. Saved!: 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund, London, Hayward Gallery and the National Gallery, 2003
Donatello e i suoi : scultura fiorentina del primo Rinascimento, Detroit : Founders Society, Detroit Institute of Arts ; Firenze : La Casa Usher, 1986
Halo; Crown; Angels
Sculpture; Christianity; Reliefs