Although Sassoferrato is best known for his adaptions of works by Raphael, he also based several works on compositions by other artists from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as Joos van Cleve, Albrecht Dürer, Annibale Carracci, Francesco Albani and Guido Reni (for a full discussion see F. Russell, 'Sassoferrato and his sources; a study of Seicento allegiance', The Burlington Magazine, CXIX, October 1977, pp. 684-700). The present composition is derived from an etching by Guido Reni (fig. 1), and, of the Seicento artists that influenced Sassoferrato, it was Reni who had the greatest impact -- it is even possible that the younger artist may have studied with the Bolognese master when he returned to Rome in 1628 (see G. Vitaletti, Il Sassoferrato. Giambattista Salvi 1609-1685, Sassoferrato, 1990, pp. 37 ff.). Sassoferrato made a number of faithful copies after Reni's famous Madonna adoring the Sleeping Christ Child in the Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome. However, unlike these copies (which are of comparable sizes to the original), the present work is notable for the way in which Sassoferrato succeeds in increasing the scale of the composition substantially from the etching without losing the essential intimacy of the original.
The present work is known in three other versions (National Gallery, London (97.2 x 64 cm.); Palazzo Bianco, Genoa; and Studio del Mosaico, Vatican, Rome). The London painting is generally considered a late work and the present work may be dated similarly.
A plaque on the frame suggests that the present work was formerly in the Barbarigo Palace, Florence.