The kind of Renaissance painting that has survived in the greatest numbers is the altarpiece. When comprised of four or more painted or carved panels hinged together, the altarpiece is called a polyptych, a type that became popular throughout the Italian peninsula around 1300. The central panel of a polyptych usually depicts the Virgin and Child while each of the side wings is filled with a saint, an arrangement that meets the worshipper's gaze with an impressive display of holy beings.
Included in this altarpiece are Saints Pancras, Michael, and Benedict. The painting probably came from the Rucellai family chapel of San Pancrazio, or Saint Pancras, who holds a martyr's palm. The mighty Saint Michael, whom God commissioned to expel Satan from heaven, is depicted with his shield and lance. Saint Benedict, who founded the Benedictine Order, holds an open book with an inscription referring to the Benedictine maxim "pray and work."