Gherardo Starnina is now recognised as one of the key artists in early-fifteenth century Florence. He led an itinerant life, working for an extended period in Spain, notably in Toledo and Valencia between 1395 and 1401, but is recorded back in Florence from 1403, after which his fame spread widely in the Tuscan region. Back in his native city, he is credited with introducing ‘gothic’ influences that he had acquired in Spain, exercising a decisive influence on the formation of Lorenzo Monaco and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Some of his great achievements were documented by Vasari in his Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, notably the decoration of the chapel of Saint Jerome in Santa Maria al Carmine, a monumental commission which has only survived in fragmentary form. His compositions would be copied by other artists of the era, leaving little doubt as to his pivotal role in early quattrocento Florentine art.
When these two fine panels were last offered at auction in 1987 they were given to the Master of the Bambino Vispo, and there has long been discussion over Starnina and his relationship to the anonymous Master: it is now thought that they are in fact the same hand. The Master had been identified by Osvald Sirén in 1904, mistakenly believing the artist to be a follower of Lorenzo Monaco. As interest in and knowledge of his work expanded, it became clear that this artist was schooled in the Florentine trecento, but embraced the International Gothic Style. This unusual synthesis led to an identification of the Master with Starnina, an association that was convincingly made for the first time in the 1974 (J. van Waadenoijen, ‘A Proposal for Starnina: Exit the Maestro del Bambino Vispo?’, Burlington Magazine, XCVI, no. 851, 1974, pp. 82-91), and served to establish Starnina’s reputation as an artist of pioneering influence in early Renaissance Florence.