The Madonna and Child belongs to the museum’s small group of early Italian paintings. In 2005, after years of uncertainty about its attribution, the work was firmly ascribed to Fra Angelico.
Fra Angelico was one of the leading Italian artists of the early Renaissance. His work reflects a transition from the Middle Ages to the new era. The gold background in this painting, for example, still shows the influence of mediaeval art, whereas the sculptural rendering of the mother and child leave no doubt that the artist was aware of the innovations of his time.
Fra Angelico received numerous commissions from the Dominican Order in Florence, of which he himself was a member. He also had clients among the Italian elite and was summoned to Rome by Pope Eugene IV in order to decorate a chapel in the Vatican. Nothing is known today about the original owner of the Madonna and Child or the place for which it was made. The coats of arms in the left and right sections of the predella (the base of the panel) were probably those of the patron or patrons, but they are unfortunately no longer discernible.