This imposing canvas—together with one of the "Dea pagana" (Pagan goddess)—were commissioned as a pendant by Leopoldo Albini, a banker, in around 1891. They were probably destined for the rooms of his luxurious home, before they were later loaned to the Segantini exhibition in Sforza Castle in 1894. It was Albini who donated this same work to the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, in 1918, as a testament in his will.
The iconographic precursors to this unusual depiction have been identified in the Nordic theme of the Madonna zum dürren Baum, the tree the Virgin Mary sits on with her child, which brings together the themes of mystical motherhood with the prefiguration of the Passion of Christ, symbolized by the bare, thorny branches. The 2 figures are idealized portraits of the family's nanny, Baba, and Segantini's son, Gottardo. The woman's pose, resting on branches as though she is merely an apparition, recalls the "Madonna in trono" (Madonna on the throne) from Medieval art, based on styles that were made popular once more by the pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists who were of great interest to Segantini. The landscape is also completely Symbolist, overflowing with references to Japanese prints in elegantly stylized branches of the birch tree and in the bird's-eye perspective.
The canvas is enclosed in a golden frame that was probably designed by the artist himself, embellished with stylized ornamental motifs.