The theological virtue of Charity is traditionally represented by a woman with several small children, one of whom she is shown nursing. Here, those figures appear hard and solid amidst a smoky, undefined setting. Sharp colors, like the pink and turquoise of the garments or the burnt orange and purple stripes of the tablecloth, heighten this contrast of tangible form and indeterminate space. It is, above all, in the ideal grace of slowly revolving poses that the real expressive force of the picture is conveyed.
That the subject is subservient to the style in this painting is underlined by the fact that the panel was first planned as a Holy Family, but with a few changes in details, del Sarto transformed it into a Charity.
Andrea d'Agnolo was called "del Sarto" from his father's trade as a tailor. He had a successful and productive career in Florence and was particularly celebrated for the beauty and originality of his color. Sarto worked briefly at the court of Francis I at Fontainebleau in 1518. This Charity, probably painted shortly before the artist's death, was also commissioned for the French king.