Bernardino Fungai's only signed and dated painting, the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Sebastian, Jerome, Nicholas of Bari and Anthony of Padua of 1512 has formed the basis for attributing a significant body of work to the artist. Fungai is first recorded in 1482 as a pupil of Benvenuto di Giovanni (1436-after 1518), when he was working on the frescoes on the drum of the cupola of the Siena Cathedral. His paintings are characterized by a simple, direct narrative style derived from Pietro Orioli (1461-1496) fused with an accomplished decorative sensibility, certainly attributable to the contemporary Sienese taste for decorative richness. A recent study of his Madonna and Child with Cherubim (London, National Gallery, inv. 1331) has focused on this intriguing aspect of his work, evaluating the hypothesis that he may have had a reputation for his adept handling of expensive materials such as gold and lapis lazuli (see D. Bomford, A. Roy and L. Syson, 'Gilding and Illusion in the Paintings of Bernardino Fungai', National Gallery Technical Bulletin, XXVII, 2006, pp. 111-120).
The present painting, signed 'OPVS BENNADINI FVNGHARI DESENIS' can be compared to the predella panel that sold at Christie's, New York, on 11 January 1991, lot 5. Also depicting the Dead Christ supported by two angels, that work was recognized as the central element of a predella illustrating the life of Saint Clement of which four other panels are known (York City Art Gallery and Strasbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts). According to Laurence Kanter, these latter panels were probably painted for the Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece for Santa Maria dei Servi in Siena (in situ), Fungai's acknowledged masterpiece (see K. Christiansen, L. Kanter and C. B. Strehlke, Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420-1550, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1988, pp. 352-358, nos. 76 a-d).
The present painting, a characteristic example of Fungai's late work, was first recorded in 1909 by Bernard Berenson as in the right chapel of the monastery of Saint Eugenio in Siena. It is possible that it was originally painted for the monastery and remained in situ until the middle of the twentieth century.