The Virgin Mary lifts a slight, translucent veil to cover her newborn son. At the painting’s edges, the aged and pensive Joseph is mirrored by the young, smiling John the Baptist. The baby Jesus rests on a yellow pillow and pastel pink blanket. The colors convey an angelic innocence, while Mary’s braided hair and draperies of magenta, gold, and dark blue project sweetness, but also majesty.
De Witte’s painting is a variation of one of Raphael’s most imitated works, the Madonna of the Veil, painted c. 1510 for Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome but now at the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France. The veil is a double allusion to the Virgin’s humility and to the burial cloth of the crucified Christ. De Witte completed the painting in Florence shortly before 1585.