This small devotional work is one of Annibale Carracci's most celebrated and copied easel paintings. It was made for Cardinal Alessandro Pereti Montalto, a major patron of painters and sculptors in Rome.
The Virgin rises to greet the viewer as she balances her squirming baby, her wide-eyed gaze drawing us into the image. Saints Joseph and John respond to the lively child with focused attentiveness. The Virgin's softly painted flesh and the Child's round forms, curly locks, and rippling drapery reflect the example of Correggio.
'The Montalto Madonna' is one of the first paintings to apply an imposing Baroque composition to an intimately-scaled picture of the Madonna. The Baroque style was established by Annibale in his fresco decorations for the Farnese Gallery, Rome and in a few paintings made just before 1600.