The Virgin and Child are seen in an almond-shaped aureole or mandorla (from the Italian for 'almond') of cherubim, the second of the highest order of angels representing Divine Wisdom.
This work is one of many versions of a design that has sometimes been associated with Perugino. The great popularity of this composition awaits explanation, but, with its gold background and Christ’s gesture of blessing, it may be intended to evoke celebrated depictions of the Virgin and Child housed in important churches in Rome.
In particular it resembles an ancient icon in the Roman church of Santa Maria Maggiore believed to have been miraculously painted by St Luke. These variations, although omitting the book that Christ holds in the original, were probably thought to contain something of the miraculous power of the original, which was therefore multiplied.
Some of these pictures have been ascribed to Antonio del Massaro, known as il Pastura. This attribution is not certain but the presence of a revered copy of the Santa Maria Maggiore icon in Viterbo (between Rome and Perugia) where il Pastura worked may be relevant.