This painting probably dates from shortly before 1511 at a time when Fra Bartolommeo was in partnership with Mariotto Albertinelli (1475 - 1515). A version of the composition by Albertinelli (Rome, Borghese Gallery) with this date is probably based on Fra Bartolommeo's cartoon.
A drawing by Fra Bartolommeo (Paris, Louvre) suggests that the design was originally to be focused more directly upon the figures, with Saint Joseph prominent to the left and with the Baptist embracing the Christ Child. The painter has included an unusual detail showing painters at work frescoing the wall above the archway. The infant Saint John the Baptist appears in the middle distance.
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