The Virgin, depicted both as a gentle, human mother and as an immortal, heavenly queen, cradles the Christ child in her arms. Andrea Briosco, called Riccio, made this sculpture while living in Padua, home to a thriving intellectual community and one of the most renowned universities in Europe. The study of ancient Greece and Rome was quite popular at the time, and Riccio combined a refined knowledge of antiquity with the Christian present, much to the delight of his contemporaries. The Virgin's dress and delicate features recall ancient Roman representations of deities. Shells, pearls, a winged putto, and a cameo decorate the crown atop her intricately arranged hair. Displaying the restless nature typical of small children, the infant Christ twists away from his mother to face the viewer.
Though Virgin and Child was originally a full-length statue, only the upper half now survives. Because the figures' heads are angled downward, scholars believe that Riccio made the sculpture as the devotional centerpiece of a raised altar. Now largely stripped of color, Virgin and Child was once vibrantly painted. Originally, both figures had dark brown hair and pale skin. The Virgin wore a blue cloak over a red gown, while the Christ child wore a yellow garment. Scholars believe that traces of red on the Virgin's crown may be the remains of a preparatory ground for gold, suggesting that it was once gilded.