Known also as the Madonna of the Book, this painting represents the Virgin and Child in a domestic setting, intent on reading a volume, perhaps a Book of Hours.
A window is open on the landscape at twilight, but the diffused light which transforms the space into a mystical setting seems to emanate from the figures themselves. The various fruits in the bowl have a symbolic meaning, the cherries allude to the blood of Christ, the plums to the love between Mother and Child, the figs to the Salvation or the Resurrection. The nails and the crown of thorns (perhaps not original) evoke the Passion of Christ.
Dating from about 1480, the painting shows all the elements of the Botticelli’s mature poetic: a delicate, elegant linearity, a style which is still far from the intense pathos of his late work.