In the middle decades of the 15th century, artists in Florence and its territories diversified their production to meet the desires of the city’s swelling mercantile classes. In addition to devotional works, these patrons sought new kinds of art, such as portraits and painted furnishings, to adorn their residences. Uccello’s Battle of San Romano, which celebrated a recent military victory, was part of an exceptionally ambitious commission for the Bartolini Salimbeni family palace. Smaller works treating ancient or mythological subjects also had a commemorative function, often marking an important event such as a wedding or a birth.
Religious faith, however, remained the bedrock of civic and familial life. Accordingly, Christian imagery was not limited to churches. Saint Bernard’s Vision by Filippo Lippi was originally displayed over a door in Florence’s government headquarters. Both altarpieces in this room were commissioned by confraternities, religious brotherhoods whose members gathered regularly to pray, sing hymns, perform charitable work or process through the streets on feast days. Domenico Veneziano’s pair of saints are fragments of a frescoed tabernacle, a type of shrine found on the city’s streets.