In the late 15th century demand continued to grow for paintings to furnish domestic spaces, fuelled by patrons from both the established aristocracy and a burgeoning mercantile class, who memorialised themselves and their family members by commissioning portraits.
A prevailing interest in the art and literature of classical antiquity encouraged artists to embrace new subjects. Piero di Cosimo, for instance, produced sophisticated and enigmatic mythological scenes. The two displayed in this room functioned as 'spalliere', panels set into rooms lined with wooden wainscoting. In Urbino, Duke Federico da Montelfeltro commissioned the Netherlandish painter Justus of Ghent to decorate his study with large allegories, two of which are shown in this room.
In the home though, religious themes predominated. Most small images of the Virgin and Child or scenes from the life of Christ were intended for personal devotion. Piero della Francesca’s Nativity was painted for his family house in Borgo San Sepolcro. Painters like Piero and Vincenzo Catena experimented with new approaches, incorporating contemporary landscapes and interiors into their depictions of traditional Christian subjects