Biagio d'Antonio Tucci belonged to the great generation of painters born in Florence in the mid-fifteenth century and worked in association with many of the greatest artists of his time. He must have been trained in the orbit of Fra Filippo Lippi and then was by 1470 strongly influenced by Andrea del Verrocchio. By 1476, he was building up a successful practice at Faenza, where he was to work intermittently for at least three decades. In 1481-2 he assisted the slightly older Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507) who, with Botticelli, Signorelli, Pinturicchio and others was one of the team of painters coordinated by Perugino for the narrative frescoes of the Sistine Chapel; and when that project was completed he was associated with Perugino in a contract, that was to prove abortive, for murals in the Sala dei Gigli of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. That contract was eventually transferred to the most dependable Florentine painter of the period, Domenico Ghirlandaio, for whose style Biagio came to express a strong affinity. Biagio was a productive artist. Because many pictures by him remained at Faenza, his oeuvre was long assumed to be by a Faentine master and generally assigned to a documented local personality, Giovanni Battista Utili. By 1932, when listing over sixty works by Utili, Berenson characterised him as a ‘shadowy entity in life, but a consistent artistic personality’ (Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford, 1932, p. 584): in an article of 1947, G. Golfieri and A. Corbari established that the works in question were in fact by Biagio.
On its appearance in Florence in 1971, this panel was recognised as a characteristic work of Biagio d'Antonio by Mina Gregori and the foremost connoisseurs of the Florentine quattrocento, Everett Fahy and Federico Zeri. As this panel, so eloquent of Biagio’s interest in Flemish painting, demonstrates, Biagio had a forceful and effective style his own, while remaining alert to artistic developments both in Florence and in the Romagna. Roberta Bartoli proposes a date about 1490.
A prominent and respected criminal lawyer in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, Dr. Max Alsberg (1877-1933) was also renowned as a legal reformer and writer. Born in Bonn in 1877, Alsberg studied Law in Munich, Leipzig, Berlin and Bonn and in 1906 co-founded a legal practice in Berlin with offices on Nollendorfplatz. He gained renown in the first decades of the 20th century, both as a defence attorney working on a series of high-profile cases, and as an academic, who in 1931 was named honorary professor at the University of Berlin. In 1912, he married Ellinor née Sternberg (1888-1965). The couple had two children, Klaus (later Claude G. Allen, born in 1914) and Renate (born in 1917) and in 1925 the family moved into a mansion in the leafy Grunewald district. After the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, Alsberg was ousted from his profession and the couple fled to Switzerland, where Max took his own life. In 1939, Ellinor was able to emigrate to Great Britain. Since 1997, a prize of the German Criminal Defence Lawyers’ Association has been named in Max Alsberg’s memory. Part of the Alsberg collection, this painting's history has been newly uncovered and addressed with generosity by the parties involved.