The Virgin Mary casts her view to the left while pivoting her waist to the right. Her legs, rendered as a gigantic mass of color, are similarly counterpoised. She stretches her arms to reach the infant Christ, but her large hands do not carry her son so much as courteously acknowledge him. Indeed, the Jesus of Tibaldi’s painting resembles a powerful king more than any newborn.
Pellegrino Tibaldi executed this painting in 1549–1553 when he was still in his early twenties. He was already a fully formed artist who painted imposing figures in stately poses inspired by Michelangelo and his followers. Tibaldi’s courtly style won him elite commissions in Bologna, Rome, and Spain. Yet he remains best remembered for his architectural work in Milan under the auspices of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo.