The Bartolini Tondo

The Bartolini Tondo

Artist Fra Filippo Lippi

Date ca. 1461-65

Movement Italian Renaissance

Medium Tempera on panel

Dimensions diameter 53″

Housed at Palazzo Pitti, Florence


Also know as Madonna and Child with the Birth of the Virgin, this work was likely commissioned by Lionardo Bartolini Salimbeni to commemorate a birth in his family. A youthful Virgin Mary sits with the Christ Child in the foreground, both treated with a gentle softness; Christ picks seeds from a pomegranate—a symbol of eternal life or perhaps fertility. Lippi adopts Ghiberti’s and Donatello’s way of incorporating the background into a continuous narrative—in the back left, St. Anne gives birth to Mary; in the far, back right, St. Anne meets her husband, St. Joachim, after they had both been promised, separately, a child. The circular shape of this tondo helps to emphasize the completeness of the narrative—it comes full circle!