(b. 1462, Firenze, d. 1521, Firenze)

Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints

Panel, 203 x 197 cm
Museo dell'Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence

This altarpiece shows Piero at his most impressive as a mature painter of monumental religious subjects, crucially in the period before Leonardo's return to Florence from Milan. Supplied for the Pugliese altar in the church of the foundling hospital near SS. Annunziata, it features the Virgin and Child enthroned with Saints Dorothy, Peter (at left), Catherine and John the Evangelist (at right). It was installed in 1493.

The painting is carefully structured in its layout and is compact with short, stocky bodies and overlapping forms. The work is basically symmetrical and controlled, but in an attempt to enliven the iconic altarpiece the image is predicated on the narrative of a double mystic marriage between Christ Child and St Catherine, who receives a ring, and St Dorothy, from whom he appears to take rosebuds. Piero's figures are seen close up giving them a force and monumentality.