Madonna and Child with Flowers, otherwise known as the Benois Madonna, could be one of two Madonnas started by Leonardo da Vinci, as he remarked himself, in October 1478. The other one could be Madonna with the Carnation from Munich.
It is likely that the Benois Madonna was the first work painted by Leonardo independently from his master Verrocchio. The British Museum owns two of Leonardo's preliminary sketches for this piece.
The composition of Madonna and Child with Flowers proved to be one of Leonardo's most popular. It was extensively copied by young painters, including Raphael, whose own version of Leonardo's design (the Madonna of the Pinks) was acquired in 2004 by the National Gallery, London.
For centuries, Madonna and Child with Flowers was considered lost. In 1909, the architect Leon Benois sensationally exhibited it in St Petersburg as part of his father-in-law's collection. The painting had been apparently brought from Italy to Russia by the notable connoisseur Alexander Korsakov in the 1790s. Upon Korsakov's death, it was sold by his son to the Astrakhan merchant Sapozhnikov for 1400 roubles and so passed by inheritance to the Benois family in 1880. After many a squabble regarding attribution, Leon Benois sold the painting to the Imperial Hermitage Museum in 1914. Since then, it has been exhibited in St Petersburg.