The Spanish artist Murillo painted this altarpiece for the Archbishop of Seville’s private palace chapel. The Archbishop paid the substantial sum of 1,000 ducats for the single painting. Rather than tell a story it presents the viewer with a heavenly vision of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. Their tender yet troubled gazes perhaps hint at their suffering to come. They add a human quality to a supernatural scene. Murillo’s varied Virgin and Child compositions had a great impact on Roman Catholic Church imagery in the 17th century.
Murillo was the most important religious artist in Spain and the highest paid painter in the country at the time this work was created. His religious images and his scenes of Seville's street-children were admired in Spain and across western Europe within his own lifetime. Murillo loved his own children, whom he brought up single-handed after his wife died in 1663. His affectionate, naturalistic portrayal of children, in religious images and scenes from daily life, influenced 18th-century English artists, such as Gainsborough and Reynolds.