Tondo (art)

A tondo (plural "tondi") is a Renaissance term for a circular work of art, either a painting or a sculpture. The word derives from the Italian "rotondo," "round." The term is usually not used in English for small round paintings, but only those over about two foot in diameter, thus excluding many round portrait miniatures.

Since Greek antiquity (the circular paintings in the centre of painted vases of that period are known as tondoes) artists have created tondi, particularly in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Since then it has been less common. In Ford Madox Brown's painting "The Last of England", the ship's wire railing curving round the figures helps enclose the composition within its tondo shape.

The background scene is consolidated or omitted, and to a large extent, unimportant. While the background may be visible in tondo paintings, in tondo relief carvings the background is not seen. Andrea Della Robbia and other members of his family created glazed terracotta "tondi" that were often framed in a wreath of fruit and leaves and which were intended for immuring in a stuccoed wall. In Brunelleschi's Hospital of the Innocents, Florence, 1421–24, Andrea Della Robbia provided glazed terracotta babes in swaddling clothes in tondos with plain blue backgrounds to be set in the spandrels of the arches.

The portrait of the Greek poet Menander is an example of a tondo. The painting of the inside of the broad low winecup called a "kylix" also lent itself to circular enframed compositions. In the sixteenth century the painterly style of "istoriato" decoration for maiolica wares was applied to large circular dishes: see also charger.

The tondo has also been used as a design element in architecture since the Renaissance; it may serve centered in the gable-end of a pediment or under the round-headed arch that was revived in the fifteenth century.

The tondo became fashionable in 15th century Florence, with Botticelli painting many examples, both Madonnas and narrative scenes. Michelangelo employed the cicular tondo for several compositions, both painted and sculpted, including "The Holy Family with the infant St. John the Baptist", the famous Doni Tondo at the Uffizi [ [ Michelangelo, The Doni Tondo] .] , as did Raphael.

The infrequently-encountered synonym "rondo" [] .] much more usually refers to a musical form.


Further reading

* Roberta J. M. Olson, "The Florentine Tondo", Oxford 2000.
* Moritz Hauptmann, "Der Tondo: Ursprung, Bedeutung und Geschichte des italienischen Rundbildes in Relief und Malerei", Frankfurt am Main 1936.

External links

* [ Six tondi from the National Gallery, London]
* [ To the Menander]

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