The Spanish Renaissance artist Fernando Yáñez de la Alemedina, whose debt to Leonardo is unmistakable in The Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph, may have worked at one time with the Italian master himself. In the early 1500s, Yáñez and his frequent collaborator Fernando Llanos resided in Florence, and extant documentation mentions a 'Ferrando Spagnuolo' who assisted Leonardo on the Palazzo della Signoria in 1505. Returning to their native Spain, Yáñez and Llanos introduced Leonardo's distinctive compositions and sfumato to Valencia, presenting an alternative to the Flemish model that had dominated since Jan van Eyck's stay there in 1428. Through the major commission of the sanctuary altar of the city's cathedral, the two artists brought the Italian Renaissance style into the public arena in Spain (J. Brown, Painting in Spain: 1500-1700, New Haven, 1998, pp. 10-11). Sometime before 1525, Yáñez moved to Cuenca, where he created paintings for a chapel of the cathedral. Post posits that he painted the present work in Cuenca, based on stylistic comparisons and the inscription on the reverse, which includes his name, 'Hernandianñes', and the date 1523 (op. cit., pp. 241-244).
In the present work, the Virgin and Child are inspired by Leonardo's Madonna of the Yarnwinder of 1501. Leonardo's composition -- which in contrast to the present work has a landscape background and does not include the figure of Saint Joseph -- is well known through versions owned by the Duke of Buccleuch; and another in an American private collection. Yáñez returned to this model repeatedly, having employed a similar composition in the Valencia cathedral, while the Saint Joseph figure reappears in his Cuenca Adoration of the Shepherds (Gómez Frechina, op. cit.). Yáñez's faithfulness to Leonardo's prototypes, so evident in the present painting, made him, along with Llanos, the first non-Italian artists to paint in the High Renaissance style outside of Italy (Brown, op. cit., p. 10).