The Virgin, the infants, and an unidentified figure form a pyramid, flanked by Joseph and set against the simple, vertical columns. In his mature style, Bartolomeo Cesi characteristically combined such naturalistic figures with a sober mood and an abstract, geometrical composition. Cesi derived the naturalism of the figures, particularly the infants, from his practice of drawing from life, which the Carracci Academy introduced in Bologna.
Reflecting the ideas of the Counter-Reformation, which zealously advocated against "immorality" in art, Cesi exhibited a rather severe style. He never made his surfaces gleam or embellished them in any way. The Carthusians, Roman Catholicism's most ascetic order, may have influenced Cesi's approach.