The Saint Cecilia Master takes his name from the former altarpiece of the Florentine church of S. Cecilia, now in the Uffizi, which is probably of before 1304. He was evidently aware of the work of Roman painters of the late trecento, of whom the most notable was Pietro Cavallini, and evidently worked in parallel with Giotto. His altarpieces for Florentine churches, one of which is dated 1307, were influential on Bernardo Daddi and other Florentine painters of the ensuing generation, but his grandest achievements were the three large narrative frescoes of scenes from the Life of Saint Francis in the upper church of S. Francesco at Assisi: these completed the celebrated cycle which, with the better-preserved decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua, ranks as one of Giotto’s supreme achievements and very probably antedated the millennium year of 1300. That the Saint Cecilia Master was associated with the project testifies to the esteem in which his patrons held him. Adolfo Venturi proposed that the Master should be identified as Buonamico Buffalmacco in 1907, but this association is problematic.
This notable panel was given to a follower of the Saint Cecilia Master by van Marle, who had a particular interest in painting at Assisi, and listed by Berenson as from his studio. Both saw it when it was owned by the connoisseur and dealer, Charles Loeser. Offner catalogued it, with a portable triptych which he gave to the Master of the S. Quirico Crucifix in the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, as from the remoter following of the Saint Cecilia Master, noting that it was ‘firmly rooted within older local traditions, in spite of the naturalistic action of the Child’. He stated that the ‘shape of the panel and its frame are survivals of the later thirteenth century’, suggesting that the two angels ‘might have been borrowed from Coppo di Marcovaldo’. The pattern of the cloth of honour with eight pointed compartments separated by crosses with pointed extremities is also found in a Madonna and Child, published by Filippo Todini as Spoletan of the early trecento and, in more elaborate form, in the hanging in the background of the Saint Francis healing a sick man at Lerida at Assisi, which Offner regarded as the work of the Saint Cecilia Master and an assistant.