In 1943 The Reverend Walter Hussey requested Henry Moore execute a monumental sculpture of the Madonna and Child for the Church of St. Matthew's, Northampton and the present work is a one of the maquettes that Moore made while he was working out ideas for this commission. Although the mother and child theme had been recurrent in Moore's work he found the implications of a religious subject to be challenging. He called the Northampton Madonna, "one of the most difficult and heart-searching sculptures that I have ever tried to do" (quoted in A.G. Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, New York, 1984, p. 290). As Moore later recalled, he had to consider "in what ways a Madonna and Child differs from a carving of just a mother and child--that is by considering how in my opinion religious art differs from secular art. It is not easy to describe in words what this difference is, except by saying in general terms that the Madonna and Child should have an austerity and a nobility, and some touch of grandeur (even hieratic aloofness) which is missing in the every day mother and child idea" (quoted in D. Mitchinson, op.cit., p. 90).