The Virgin Mary, hieratic and still, looks out toward the viewer while gently supporting Christ with her left arm. The smiling infant gazes lovingly toward her and playfully stretches out his arm, grabbing the edge of her gold-trimmed, blue cloak. The star over the Madonna's forehead refers to her title "Star of the Sea," the meaning of the Jewish form of her name, Miriam.
The Virgin's rigid and formal pose reflects the icon tradition of the Byzantine Empire. The painting's format and the ornamental scroll on either side of the Madonna also find close parallels in Byzantine icons. But unlike Byzantine work, the Master of Saint Cecilia emphasizes the intimate connection between the Madonna and Child, embodied at the Virgin's breast where her right hand gently cradles Christ's tiny left hand. This humanizing tendency would become increasingly prominent in Western Europe and a hallmark of Renaissance imagery of the Madonna and Child.