This panel is one of a number of fragments from a dismembered Assumption of the Virgin, the central element of which, the Virgin, was in the collection of Sir John Pope-Hennessy (Christie's, New York, 10 January 1996, lot 102). In a posthumously published article of 1965 ('Notes on Six Parts of Two Dismembered Sienese Altarpieces', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXV, 1965, pp. 129-36), Gertrude Coor assembled the key elements of the main panel, which she convincingly argued anticipated the artist's altarpiece of the Ascension (Siena, Pinacoteca) and established the compositional pattern of that work. The other extant fragments are the left-hand counterpart to the present section (which was originally on the right diagonally below the Virgin) formerly in the Murnaghan collection, Dublin, with Saint John the Baptist and three saints looking upwards to the right, with the angel playing a lute (Baltimore Museum of Art) and two further panels of groups of angels (El Paso, Museum of Art, Kress Collection, nos. K1329-30, Shapley, figs. 272 and 274), which all belonged to the upper section of the composition: a predella, elements of which are in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, has been associated with the altarpiece but may have belonged to the Siena Ascension.
The Assumption was evidently a significant work by the painter of a major group of devotional panels which was traditionally attributed to Giacomo Pacchiarotto (1474-1540): in two articles of 1982 Alessandro Angelini established that the pictures in question were by his older contemporary Orioli, who as can now be seen was one of the key artists of late quattrocento Siena.
William Graham, M.P. for Glasgow, a staunch supporter of Gladstone, was deeply interested in pictures. A major - and perceptive - patron of both Rossetti and Burne-Jones, he began to collect old masters, and particularly Italian pictures, in the 1860s. His collection was largely dispersed at Christie's in April 1886, but a number of lesser works - including the present lot and lot 57 - had already been given to his children; for a full account see Garnett, loc. cit.