The town of Ascoli was under papal rule and in 1482 Pope Sixtus IV granted it a degree of self-government. This altarpiece was painted for the church of SS. Annunziata in Ascoli to celebrate the event. The coats of arms are those of the Pope (left) and the local bishop, Prospero Caffarelli (right). News of Ascoli's new status reached the town on the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, which then became a special feast day when the town celebrated its liberty.
It is rare to include a saint with the Archangel Gabriel in a depiction of the Annunciation. Saint Emidius, the patron saint of Ascoli, is shown carrying a model of the town. Ascoli is dominated by towers and is still recognisable today in the model which Emidius carries.
From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Thirty Eight, December 2009