The infant Christ Child reclines on pillows while the Virgin Mary lovingly gazes down at him. She holds a transparent veil in her hands toward which the child playfully extends his hands. In the shadows behind the Virgin, Joseph watches the happy scene. This intimate and touching view of the Holy Family exemplifies the Renaissance fascination with Jesus's humanity. The Virgin's beauty and youth, the child's pudgy body, and their warm smiles enhance the sense of the Holy Family as ordinary, loving, and ultimately very human.
Pope Julius II may have commissioned the painting in 1509, hanging it on a pillar, along with his portrait, during festivals in a Roman church. Thirty-five known versions of this painting exist, making it one of Raphael's most popular Madonnas.