Giovanni Antonio Sogliani was a pupil of Leonardo's former associate Lorenzo di Credi, and was trained in the disciplined tradition of the late quattrocento. But although he remained on close terms with Credi, serving in 1531 as his executor, Sogliani became a key exponent of High Renaissance taste in Florence. He was strongly influenced by Fra Bartolommeo, of whom Vasari considered him a follower, by his associate Mariotto Albertinelli and also by Andrea del Sarto. His stature is expressed in a series of altarpieces for churches in Florence of the 1520s, and in his selection to supply panels for the choir of the Cathedral at Pisa from 1528: Sarto was also involved in the project and in 1536 after his death Sogliani completed his unfinished altarpiece for the Confraternity of S. Francesco at Pisa. His most ambitious single composition is the Christ washing the Feet of the Disciples of 1531 in the church of S. Maria delle Grazie at Anghiari. Better known are his frescoes in the Refectory of the Convento di S. Marco at Florence.
With their brilliant colour, so evident in both the draperies and in the wings of both angels, and decisive drawing the two panels epitomise Sogliani's artistic personality. None of his Florentine contemporaries was a more reliable technician - this explains the remarkable freshness of both panels; and this may help to explain why he was criticised for being dilatory by Vasari who himself was called in the supply two panels for the Pisan scheme. It is understandable that in 1857 and 1863 the pictures were attributed to Albertinelli with whose classicising style Sogliani's had so much in common. As Berenson noted, a variant of the left-hand panel, also assumed to represent the Angel of the Annunciation, is at New Haven, no. 1871.77: while to judge from a photograph this is of inferior quality, it must have been based on the same cartoon, as Lawrence Kantor, for whose help we are grateful, points out. There is no evidence as to which complex the panels belonged, but it is conceivable that an earlier lot in the 1863 sale, 12 June, lot 28,'MARIOTTO ALBERTINELLI, Angels in the act of adoration - a pair', sold for 17 guineas to Webb, might have formed part of this.
Davenport Bromley was the most energetic of a number of mid-nineteenth century collectors who were in holy orders. Others include the Rev. John Sanford, part of whose collection happily survives at Corsham, and the Rev. John Fuller-Russell. The Rev. Edward Young (1800-1891), a persistent critic of Ruskin and author of Pre-Raffaellitism, who lent the left-hand panel to the celebrated Manchester exhibition in 1857 made no other loan to this. He may well have known Davenport Bromley, among whose later acquisitions the two panels evidently were.