The 'Master of San Miniato' was christened in 1913 by Bernard Berenson, who assembled under his name a group of eight paintings that he identified as the work of the same Florentine hand as a sacra conversazione in the Church of S. Domenico at San Miniato (Castri, op. cit., pp. 212-4, figs. 101-7 and 131-2). Berenson's nomenclature has since gained general acceptance and the artist's oeuvre has been greatly expanded; Serenella Castri lists fifty compositions, of which several are known in many versions.
Almost all the panels attributed to the Master of San Miniato are Madonnas. Castri suggests that the present painting may be the earliest of these; from the embrace of the Mother and Child deriving from Lippi and Donatello prototypes and the typology of the tunic-clad Infant, she proposes a date in the early 1480s, immediately after the sacra conversazione from which the master takes his name. A number of versions are known. A variant with flanking angels and an arched top is in the Detroit Institute of Art (idem, p. 215, no. 5, fig. 134) and one in reverse with two seraphim and a landscape background is in the Museo Bardini at Florence (idem, p. 216, no. 6, fig. 110); five derivations of inferior quality are recorded (idem, pp. 214-5, and see figs. 135 and 136).
The Rev. Walter Davenport Bromley (1787-1863) had inherited Wootton Hall, Staffordshire in 1822 and first visited Italy in that year. By the 1840s he had formed a collection of considerable range and distinction, securing many key works at auction at Christie's and elsewhere. He owned such masterpieces as Bellini's Agony in the Garden (London, National Gallery) and Giotto's Dormition of the Virgin (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). Gustav Waagen, on recording his visit to Wootton (Treasures of Art in Great Britain, III, London, 1854, p. 371), wrote of him that 'Mr. Davenport Bromley is an ardent admirer of all such pictures, be they of the 13th or 16th century, in which an unaffected and genuine feeling is expressed. I found, accordingly, in his house a number of works, chiefly altarpieces, illustrating the Italian schools from their first rise in the 13th century to their highest development in the 16th, such as I have not yet met with ... in any other gallery in England.'