This panel is a fragment of a Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, another part of which is today in the Saibene Collection, Milan. Laurence Kanter has perceptively suggested the Brooklyn and Saibene panels likely formed part of a predella that also included three panels – The Birth of the Virgin and two kneeling donor portraits – in the Colonna collection, Rome, as well as The Marriage of the Virgin in the Bernard and Mary Berenson collection, I Tatti, Florence. On account of their compositions, Kanter proposed an arrangement with the Colonna panel at left, the Berenson panel in the center and the Brooklyn/Saibene panel at right. Kanter further noted that though his proposed reconstruction defies narrative sequence, it follows the scenes' appearances in the liturgical calendar (Kanter, op. cit., p. 175). It remains unclear whether the donor portraits would have separated each of the narrative scenes or been set at the two ends of the predella. Furthermore, the combined width of the Brooklyn and Saibene panels is only approximately 42.5 cm., whereas the narrative scenes in the Berenson and Colonna collections have widths of 60 cm. and 60.4 cm., respectively, suggesting another section of the scene is yet unknown.
Provided the widths above are accurate, the total width of the predella would have come to just under 240 cm., far greater than any early altarpiece by Francesco Botticini and matched only by his Palmieri altarpiece from San Pier Maggiore (National Gallery, London). The gilt pilasters that divided the predella scene are also entirely foreign to Botticini's other works but are identical to many of those found in the predellas of his master, Neri di Bicci. Kanter (op. cit., p. 175) takes this as evidence that Francesco, a youth still in his early teens, painted this predella for Neri while he was apprenticed to him between 22 October 1459 and 24 July 1460, noting that between this time Neri's Ricordanze records his activity on four altarpieces. One of these, a Coronation of the Virgin seated on clouds and flanked by four saints and angels commissioned for the high altar of San Felice (the main panel is today in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence), is virtually identical in size to the reconstructed predella and has a suitably appropriate subject to be associated with it (fig. 1).
William H. Herriman was a wealthy Brooklyn-born art collector who moved to Rome in 1865 and assembled an extraordinary collection of old master and modern paintings. Upon his death, Herriman bequeathed his collection, which included such masterpieces as Gustave Moreau's Oedipus and the Sphinx (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Jean-François Millet's Shepherd Tending His Flock (Brooklyn Museum), to various American and Italian institutions.