Rogier van der Weyden's exquisitely tender representation of the embracing Virgin and Child demonstrates his superlative drawing skills, his feel for design, and his unrivaled handling of oil paint. The painting became a highly popular model for private devotional works, as numerous miracles were attributed to it.
Rogier and Jan van Eyck are considered the greatest Netherlandish artists of the 15th century. The dramatic power and emotional intensity of Rogier's paintings exerted a powerful influence his contemporaries. In this work, the motif of the Christ Child turning toward Mary and pressing His cheek to hers is loosely based on a 14th-century Italian portrayal of the Virgin and Child, itself a replica of an earlier Italian icon in the Byzantine style.
In 1440, a clergyman from Cambrai, France, brought back from Rome an Italo-Byzantine Madonna painting that he bequeathed to his church in 1450. Installed in 1452 in the Cambrai Cathedral, that work became a highly popular model for private devotional art because of the miracles linked to it.