This altarpiece was made for a religious order of nuns, and the painter specifically tailored its imagery to devout women. It was commissioned by the Order of Clares for the church of S. Giovanni Decollato in Urbania, a small town near Urbino. The order had been co-founded by Saint Clare (1194–1263), who is depicted at the lower left. She was a close follower of Saint Francis, who is shown above her. Three other female saints — Catherine, Agnes, and Lucy— are seen on the lower arcade, while Mary Magdalene is depicted opposite Saint Francis. Clustered around the Virgin’s throne are devout women: some wear habits, one wears a crown. These supplicants represent the order that commissioned the painting, and some of them may be portraits of the wealthy donors. The inscription directly describes the “true” confraternity and the intercessory power of the Virgin.
Source: Alan Chong, "Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 37.