The removal of this painting from its original position led to us now only having a fresco fragment left, and this was a common problem with fresco artworks when it became necessary to move them elsewhere. This explains why the part that we have left is compositionally misaligned, with no space surrounding the main figures. You will also notice how part of the saint to the left is actually cropped out, with perhaps this artwork being removed quickly and without the opportunity to do so with care. Thankfully, what is left is still stunning in itself and the current owners, the Hermitage Museum, have the necessary skills to protect what remains for future generations. The saints here are depicted with several symbolic items, including books and a quill. This method was normally used in order to help the viewer understand the identity of each person.
The Madonna is, as is typical, captured in blue, with a cloak which covers her head to toe. She has a pale complexion, as does her child who is perched on her left leg. She looks lovingly at the new born, whilst the child is facing us directly. All four have golden halos which have suffered over the course of time, which much of the original paint low missing or reduced in impact. The artist produced a fairly similar composition which featured St Dominic and St Peter Martyr which remains in the church of San Domenico in Cortona, and many of his artworks were not moved in quite the same way as the painting in front of us here. Madonna and Child depictions were also particularly common in the career of Sandro Botticelli.
This fresco was to be found in the Convent of San Domenico, Fiesole, which is a stunning town which lies in the suburbs of Florence in Italy. It was removed during political instability in the region and eventually made its way into the collection of the world famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. Fra Angelico produced several similar versions of this type of artwork, where the supporting figures would be swapped with other saints and the appearance of the Madonna and Child would be slightly tweaked each time. Some of these interpretations would also make use of the artist's assistants in order to help him keep up with meeting the needs of a growing number of patrons. Fra Angelico's oeuvre is entirely devoted to religious themes and this was very much the way during the Italian 15th century, with religion dominating society more generally, and also holding most of the cards with regards offering the most prestigious and high paying commissions.