As Charles Avery wrote, in his introduction to 'Donatello's Madonnas revisited' (Donatello-Studien, op. cit., p. 219), reliefs of the Virgin and Child provided the bread and butter for most Renaissance sculptors. Donatello, to whom the model of the present lot is attributed, was at the forefront of this productive output, and his reliefs of the Virgin and Child adorned countless, doors, private chapels, churches and cathedrals.
Naturally, Donatello would have personally worked on the major commissions he received, but when it came to the less prestigious commissions, the master would have only needed to create a model and entrust his assistants to produce the casts. The original model for the present lot is now lost, but the discovery of a Virgin and Child relief in stucco above a doorway on via delle Fogge in Verona, prompted Pope-Hennessy in 1964 (op. cit, p. 20), and latterly Avery, to consider Donatello as the likely author of the model on the basis of the laboured comparisons to other works from his oeuvre.
Furthermore, in his entry for a virtually identical stucco relief in the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection (loc. cit.), Anthony Radcliffe proposed that there were two general groups which derived from Donatello's original model: those cast from the Verona mould, and others to the Metropolitan mould - the latter so-called after a version in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Of the former, and of which the present lot is an example, Pope-Hennessy determined that there were sixteen recorded or known versions of the composition, although a further number have since come to light. They are all cast in stucco and are set on a raised base decorated with a band of overlapping leaves. They are all weathered, although the present lot is in remarkably good condition, and were intended to adorn a street-facing doorways - hence their general condition. Of the Metropolitan examples, a significantly larger number of casts exist. All are cast in terracotta, and are modelled without the base and with slightly altered drapery. Their generally good condition would suggest that they were all intended to adorn an interior.
Both Pope-Hennessy and Venturi (ibid, p. 51) individually concluded that, on the basis of stylistic comparison to Donatello's oeuvre, the model for the Verona Madonna had to have been created while he was working in Padua between 1447 and 1453, and while it is likely that the present relief was cast in, or around, that time, one cannot preclude the possibility that it, along with the other related casts, was produced at a slightly later date.