Sandro Botticelli produced a large body of work around the life of the Madonna within his career, which sometimes makes it hard to actually differentiate between some of the different paintings. This particular piece is also helpfully known by the alternative title of Sant'Ambrogio Altarpiece and the content itself is unique enough to allow this fresco artwork to retain an independence within the artist's overall career. Here we find the Madonna placed centrally, with a child perched on her left leg. She holds it closely as it gazes around the room. The Madonna is dressed in a blue garment that brings colour and elegance to the composition, and there is also a pink dress underneath which just shows through around her chest. They are sat within a highly formal room, with architectural touches throughout, though without distracting us too much from the figures in the foreground.

The fresco itself is sized at 194cm by 170cm and it is an important addition to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence which itself is mainly focused on the Italian Renaissance. Prior to arriving there, the piece was hung in the convent of Sant'Ambrogio which explains the alternative title that it was given by some. The content here features the Madonna surrounded by saints, with three either side carefully spaced out across the width of this painting. Those knowledgable on religious art, as well as Botticelli's paintings more specifically, will be able to pick up on some of the clues that he left within this work, which allows us to correctly identify the other figures featured here. Starting from the left, and moving across to the right, we first can see Mary Magdalene who carries a small jar within her right hand. To her left is St John the Baptist and across on the other side we see the modestly dressed St Francis of Assisi and also Catherine of Alexandria, as indicated by the wheel that she holds with her right hand.

In the very foreground are two figures kneeling in bright red garments. These are believed to be Cosmas and Damian who served as doctors and pharmacists. There is a calming and respectful atmosphere to this piece and it is believed to have been one of the artist's earliest of commissions, coming when he was just in his mid twenties. The artist would continue to be commissioned to produce portraits of the Madonna throughout his career, with some of the other highlights including the likes of Madonna and Child, Madonna of the Magnificat and also Madonna della Loggia. By the end of his life Botticelli had left behind a large body of work, partly due to the number of assistants that he was able to call on in order to satisfy a growing number of patrons across his lifetime.

Sant'Ambrogio Altarpiece Sandro Botticelli