The only circular bronze relief by Donatello to be dated precisely.
Madonna and Child with Four Angels ('The Chellini Madonna') by Donatello, 14551456
© V&A Picture Library
- Bronze with gilt decoration
- Diameter: 28.2 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £6,000 ( Total: £175,000; Export stopped)
- Acquired in:
- Eugene Thau
In 1456, Donatello gave the piece to the Florentine physician, Giovanni Chellini Samminiati, who had cured him of illness. The relief depicts the virgin embracing the Christ Child tended by four angels, one of whom reaches out to him while another offers a dish of fruit or sweetmeats to the Virgin. This reflects a contemporary practice of presenting gifts of food to the new mother. The back of the relief is a negative impression of its front, a feature otherwise unknown in Renaissance sculpture. According to Chellini himself, this was 'so that melted glass could be cast onto it and make the same figures as those on the other side.' Modern glass reliefs made from casts of the reverse of the roundel have attested this claim. Much of the money needed to purchase the relief was raised through a public appeal.
Giovanni Chellini Samminiati; Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquis of Rockingham; by descent, William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam; by descent Earls Fitzwilliam; William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 10th Earl; Lady Naylor-Leyland; Eugene Thau.