Sano di Pietro was one of the most successful artists in 15th century Siena. He was regularly employed by the Comune of Siena as well as by the confraternities and regular orders, especially the Franciscans. While he produced altarpieces, predellas, biccherna covers, and manuscript illuminations, he is perhaps best known today for his charming and intimate depictions of the Madonna and Christ Child, either alone or often surrounded by angels or saints, that adhere faithfully to the Sienese Trecento tradition. The present panel is such an example, likely dating to circa 1470. The beautiful Madonna and Child at center are flanked by Saints John and Bernardino of Siena as well as four angels with floral garlands in their hair. In 1450, Saint Bernardino was canonized, and this historical event likely sparked the popularity of small devotional panels in that included images of this patron saint of Siena, with some of the most sought after examples arising from the hand of Sano di Pietro.
We are grateful to Professor Laurence Kanter for endorsing the present attribution after firsthand inspection and for suggesting a date of circa 1470.
A Note on the Provenance:
Until the early 20th century, this painting belonged to the expert and connoisseur Elia Volpi and hung in the famed Davanzati Palace in Florence (fig. 1). At the time, it was framed in by an old carved and painted frame with cusped and rounded arches at the top and a plinth inscribed with the text: "Salve Regine Misericorde". Signor Volpi brought this painting, along with his entire collection of rare and valuable antiques to America and sold them in New York in 1916. This lot was among the items sold in that sale in 1916, where it was purchased by the mining engineer and financier William Boyce Thompson, in whose family the painting has descended ever since.