Together with two scenes now in the Vatican, these panels formed the base (predella) of an altarpiece, possibly the Presentation in the Temple in the cathedral of Massa Marittima, south of Siena. Sano was a gifted painter of illuminations and these works share with his illuminations a pleasing, genial, if somewhat conservative, narrative style. His work was much appreciated by the Franciscan order in Siena for its simple, populist character.
Calcagno collection (sold to Douglas); [R. Langton Douglas, London, until 1928; sold to Straus]; Jesse Isidor Sraus, New York (1928–d. 1936); Mrs. Jesse Isidor (Irma N.) Straus, New York (1936–58)
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 182, 274, 609, confuse it with 58.189.1.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, p. 82, pl. 52, date this panel and 58.189.1 late in Sano's career, and suggest that they may come from the same predella as a "Nativity" and a "Flight into Egypt" (both Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome).
Fabrizio Mancinelli inThe Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1982, p. 144, under no. 74, notes that it has been suggested that the two Metropolitan Museum panels and the two Vatican panels belonged to the same predella [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1980], but dates the two Vatican panels 1445–50.
On the occasion of the Vatican exhibition in 1982, this picture and its companion, The Massacre of the Innocents (58.189.1), were examined side by side with two pictures in the collection of the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City: The Nativity and The Flight into Egypt. Tooling, technique, costumes, and other details all corresponded, and it was determined that there can be no reasonable doubt that all four panels come from the same predella. John Pope-Hennessy suggested that this predella may have belonged to the altarpiece of The Purification of the Virgin formerly in the cathedral at Massa Marittima (destroyed 1922), where many of the figures types recur.