The Master of St. Ildefonso was named after his most important work, a triptych depicting The Investiture of St. Ildefonso. The central panel was in a private collection in Worcester until 1971 and two side panels are in the Museo Nacional in Valladolid (see M. Friedlander, Early Netherlandish Painting, Leiden, 1967, VI, no. 105). The unidentified master, a close follower of Hans Memling, was active in Bruges in the late 15th century and a contemporary of the Master of the Legend of St. Ursula and the Master of the Legend of St. Lucy.
In a study dedicated to our master, Dr. Didier Martens attributes a whole group of pictures to this hand calling the artist the Master of the Verbeeck triptych (see D. Martens, 'Un imitateur de Hand Memling: Le Maitre du Triptyque Verbeek', Aachener Kunstblä tter, 59, 1991-3, pp. 239-55). Two of these were, like the present picture, exhibited in Bruges during the 1994 Memling exhibition: The Nativity in the Institute of Arts, Detroit and The Adoration of the Magi in the Sedgwick Collection, University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Similar compostions of the Madonna and Child are often seen in works by Memling, for instance in the so-called Van Nieuwenhove-Madonna in the Memlingmuseum, Bruges and the Madonna and Child on a pillow in the National Gallery, London. The present work shows the Child playing with a necklace with red beads, a possible allusion to the blood of his sacrifice, and he is holding a pear in his right hand, the fruit of the 'new Adam' symbolizing salvation.