Published by Sonia Chiodo in 2011 (loc. cit.), this painting was first recognized as the so-called Master of the Misericordia by Miklós Boskovits on the basis of photographs, an attribution later endorsed by Everett Fahy following firsthand inspection (loc. cit.). The Master of the Misericordia was a key figure in later trecento Florentine painting. Influenced by Orcagna and Bernardo Daddi, his body of work has been steadily recovered, ever since Richard Offner identifed his hand in the 1920s in two particular works: in compartments relating the Stories of Saint Eligius, formerly in the Cambò collection, Barcelona, and in the panel held in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, the Madonna della Misericordia with Kneeling Nuns, the latter previously given to the circle of Agnolo Gaddi. As he began systematically to identify works around the Misericordia in Florence, it had been Offner’s intention to publish a monograph on the artist as part of the monumental Corpus of Florentine Painting, but this never materialized. Instead, a list of attributed works was published posthumously in 1981. By that point, Federico Zeri and Miklós Boskovits had both independently expanded the catalogue, with Boskovits listing 51 works in his 1975 volume, praising the Master as worthy of a place among the truly great protagonists of Florentine painting, distinguished by his capacity to express a greater degree of naturalism. An updated catalogue, with a highly informative chronological and stylistic evaluation of his oeuvre was recently produced by Sonia Chiodo, as part of the Corpus. A formal identification of the artist, however, remains elusive.
According to Chiodo, the panel would originally have been surmounted by a gabled top, most likely with a bust of the blessing Christ (loc. cit.). The treatment of the Madonna's face is typical of the Master of Misericordia's style and the motif of the ewer, placed before the throne in the foreground recurs in his Coronation of the Virgin, sold Sotheby's, New York, 22 January 2004, lot 45.