Pompeo Batoni was, in his day, the most celebrated painter in Rome and one of the most highly regarded in all of Europe. Perhaps best known as a portraitist recording European travellers on the Grand Tour, Batoni was equally accomplished as a painter of histories and religious scenes, such as the present work. A proponent of the classical tradition in Roman painting, he regarded the work of Guido Reni as an ideal, and copied several of Reni's compositions as well as frequently adapting single figures for his own compositions. Particularly Reni-esque in the present painting is the half-length format with only the most essential narrative elements included, as well as the idealised beauty of the Madonna. Her hair, with its braided style, is characteristic of Batoni's female figures.
The figure of the Infant Christ in the present painting repeats the pose of The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist (Hermitage, St. Petersburg; see Clark & Bowron, op. cit, p. 342, no. 398, fig. 360). The gesture of the Madonna, reaching out with her left hand while her head is gently inclined, is closely related to the Venus Caressing Cupid (Whereabouts unknown; Clark & Bowron, op. cit, p. 331, no. 370, fig. 337).
One mysterious element in the present work is the hand, not immediately apparent, appearing just below Christ's right leg and caressing the left arm of the Infant Baptist. Clearly it doesn't belong to the Madonna; it would seem rather that the present painting may be a fragment of a larger composition, originally designed as a Visitation with Saint Elizabeth to the left.