The painting was commissioned by Pope Nicholas V for the altar of the church of the Certosa (Charterhouse) in Bologna, in memory of Cardinal Nicolò Albergati, to whom he had been a student and secretary. The execution of the work was entrusted to the brothers Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini, Venetian painters working in the fifteenth century. They left the date 1450 and their signature in the inscription on the frame under the step of the Virgin's throne.

At the time of the commission, the two painters were returning from an artistic experience working alongside Andrea Mantegna in the church of the Eremitani in Padua.

Bartolomeo, the younger of the two, displays a greater attention to innovations in perspectives, especially on the saints’ pedestals. Instead, Antonio is attributed with painting the figures such as the St. John the Baptist, slenderer and more elongated as in late Gothic representations.

In the central panel of the polyptych is a portrayal of the Madonna and Child crowned by two angels. At the top, in the centre, is a tabernacle with Christ in piety between two angels in prayer. Both scenes are flanked by compartments containing depictions of saints.

The richly embellished shaped frame, in gilded wood with finishes against a blue background that can be seen beneath the fretwork motifs, the product of sophisticated Venetian carpentry, culminates with a series of pinnacles and carved figures.

The polyptych is an absolute masterpiece from a crucial moment of passage not only in terms of Vivarini’s artistic experience, but also for fifteenth-century Venetian art, in some respects, still connected to the International Gothic tradition, but ready to incorporate the formal and spatial innovations of Renaissance art.