Although by no means his most ambitious engraving, Lucas van Leyden's Virgin and Child with two Angels is perhaps one of his loveliest. It is a peaceful moment of motherly affection and care, as the Virgin holds the Child in her lap, showing him a single flower. Two rather earthly looking angels are watching this gentle scene in adoration. The setting is a stone bench underneath an old and gnarly tree. In the upper right, the eye is lead up a hill towards a group of trees. By darkening the sky with dense horizontal lines and alternating between bright highlights and dark shadows on the trees, the Virgin and Child group and the faces of the angels, Leyden lends the small image the atmosphere of a night scene illuminated by a full moon. It is a marvel how Leyden evokes the image of a moonlit meadow rising up to the trees in the background with only a few flicks with the burin and a patch of blank white paper. Only Rembrandt, over a century later, was able to use areas of blank paper so effectively - and to let the image take shape in the mind of the beholder.
The beauty of Leyden's engravings can only be appreciated in the extremely rare early impressions of his prints. This is particularly true for the Virgin and Child with two Angels, a composition which relies so much on intense, yet finely nuanced contrasts of light and shade. The present impression is equally fine as the example in the British Museum.