In 1510 the Florentine republic commissioned Fra Bartolommeo to paint an altarpiece, Madonna and Child with Saints, for one of the long walls of the council chamber in the Palazzo Vecchio. Battle scenes painted by rivals Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were supposed to flank the altarpiece, though only Leonardo ever began his painting. Fra Bartolommeo never finished his monochrome altarpiece either, though he was still working on it in 1515.
Fra Bartolommeo used chalk to softly indicate areas of light and shadow as well as to work out other elements of the unified composition, such as the placement of figures and their various poses. His concern with chiaroscuro shows Leonardo's influence.