This painting is believed to be the one described by Giorgio Vasari in his own early accounts of Italian art. He described its location at the time as being the Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence, the artist's home city. Whilst some of his opinions have since been challenged, Vasari played a crucial role in creating a foundation for future art historians and biographers to follow. He left behind a bounty of detail on the lives of all manner of Italian painters and sculptors, much of which was derived from the personal relationships that he held with many of them. He was an artist of note himself, and so could fully understand the technicalities of these artistic disciplines. In the years that have passed since the artwork is mainly been attributed to assistants of Botticelli but in recent years there has been a general acceptance that it was probably produced by the master himself.
Considerable restoration work was completed in the early 1950s and this allowed historians to get a much clearer understanding of the painting's origins - this has proven to be the case for quite a number of this artist's lesser known pieces. Additionally, up until around the 19th century there was not a great focus on Botticelli, meaning it would always be unlikely for any great revelations to appear during this extended period. Thankfully today he has had his reputation restored and he is regarded as a crucial influence on the direction of the Early Renaissance era. This painting is believed to have been commissioned by an illustrator in Florence by the name of Donato di Antonio Cioni.
This painting can now be found in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli which is based in the city of Milan, Italy. The alternative version, also known as Lamentation over the Dead Christ can be found in the German city of Munich, at the Alte Pinakothek. That piece is also sometimes called by its longer name of Lamentation of Christ with Saints Jerome, John, Paul, Peter and the Three Mary and the two paintings would have been completed at around the same time, just towards the end of the 15th century. The colours used and the figures used are fairly similar across the two paintings, but in the item shown in this page the layout is more vertical, with the other one being wider. Botticelli regularly re-visited themes within his career, with Madonna and Child being the most popular, with over a dozen different interpretations appearing across his lifetime. See also Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ) by Giotto.