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The Doni Tondo is an oil on panel painting by Michelangelo Buonarroti created around 1504 1506. This painting depicts the Christian Holy Family. Mary, who has the principal position in the painting, and is sitting in the ground positioned between Joseph’s legs; in between them infant Jesus is being lifted as if Joseph was passing him to Mary. Through the continuous change in colors that vary from light to dark tones, the use of contour lines and clear outlines, and the manipulation of proportions, Michelangelo is able to highlight not only the importance of the Holy Family, but also the important role that Mary played in the salvation.
Michelangelo’s technique consists of the application of successive darker layers of color from the outline of the drawing to the lighter colored layers in the light areas, using the darkest shades of the colors as shadows. Mary is the most visible figure in the painting occupying the center of the picture. For this reason, as if to emphasize the her importance, the drapes of her garments are finely modeled with bright colors. In contrast with the bright colors of the family, the nude figures that occupy the background have earthy colors that compared to those of the Holy Family, do not stand out. The focal point for this painting is clearly the family, but especially Mary and Michelangelo tries to highlight her importance through the use of bright colors. She played an essential role in the incarnation of Christ, who would later die to save the humanity of their sins.
Aside from color, Michelangelo traces with defining contours each one of the facial features of each member of the Holy Family with “defining contours that are carefully and incisively indicated by thin brown lines of the finest precision” . In contrast with the defining lines he uses to accentuate the figures in the front, he employs a shading method that presents the background figures unfocused and slightly blurred, while making sure that all the interest and attention is located in the center where The Holy Family stands out in thanks to the use of clear outlines and sharp details. Though there is no certainty on the meaning of the naked figures in the back, most scholars seem to conclude that they represent the pagan costumes that are being left behind with the apparition of christianity, for this reason they are unfocused. The clear outlines can be identified on Joseph’s head and Mary’s head, where there is a slightly brown line that helps defining contours for each of the features.
The manipulation of proportions exposes the vividness of the movement in “complicated anatomical postures, evidencing the importance of drawing, anatomy and of course movement”. A clear example of the vivacity of movement through anatomical poses is the sinuous line drawn by the Virgin’s posture who is turning backwards in a twisting movement. On the other hand the importance of anatomy is evidenced on the sculptural and monumental shapes of the human body.
The Doni Tondo is full of elements and techniques such as manipulation of the tones of the colors, the structural and monumental shapes and the spiraling poses that will later become an integral part in mannerism. These techniques at the same time help highlight the importance of the Holy Family and the role they played in the salvation according to Christianity.