The work was thought to have been originally housed in
the Benedictine Monastery of St Ambrose. There is however an
anomaly, neither St Ambrose nor any of the other Benedictine
patron saints are pictured, rather Cosmas and Damian, saints
traditionally associated with the Medici kneel at the feet
of the Madonna. Also portrayed in the work are Mary
Magdalen, John the Baptist, St Francis and St Catherine of
Alexandria. The presence of St Francis suggests that it may
be the Botticelli panel Vasari saw in the church of San
Francesco in Montevarchi in the 16th century.
The painting is also known as Of the Converted
Sisters) as it was believed to have originated from the
alterpiece of that convent, but since disproved.
This is the first known alterpiece by Botticelli and it
shows the influence of his teacher Lippi and Verrocchio
(once again for the metallic quality of the clothing). He
became Botticelli's master in 1467 which would tally nicely
with the proposed dates for the work.
(Text adapted from Gloria Fossi, Uffizi Gallery: The
Official Guide, all of the works,