In this easily comprehensible scene, the Virgin Mary and her mother Anne hold the Christ Child, probably observed by Mary's husband Joseph and her father Joachim. But the identity of the two older people remains debatable: some scholars speculate that they might be Biblical prophets, who lived long enough to see the Christ Child as God had promised them.
Joseph Paelinck stressed the humanity of the Holy Family in this moment of peace and intimacy. His simple, orderly composition gives equal attention to each of the individual figures. The device of the draped wall encloses the space and intensifies the viewer's focus on the interaction among the large, idealized figures. Elements such as the dramatic lighting and the sharply articulated folds of drapery show Paelinck's admiration of Jacques-Louis David's Neoclassical style.