As told in the Gospels, while Jesus hung on the cross, he turned to his mother saying, "Woman, behold your son," and then entrusted her to the care of his disciple, John. This bronze relief represents that moment, with the Virgin Mary and John flanking Jesus on either side of the cross and a weeping Mary Magdalene kneeling at the base. The artist emphasized the Virgin's close relationship to Jesus through their interlocking gazes and mirrored gestures. Both are modeled with three-quarter profile heads, and the Virgin's open arms, expressing her acceptance of the event, mimic those of Jesus. In contrast, John and Mary Magdalen are in profile, and their more overtly dramatic gestures convey their tremendous grief.
Francesco Mochi designed the clouds and figures with foreshortening to suggest depth, a strategy that is only apparent when the relief is seen from below, as the artist intended.
Features such as the relief's elongated rectangular shape, large size, gilding, keyhole, and hinge indicate that it served as the door of a tabernacle on the high altar of a church. Priests stored consecrated hosts in locked tabernacles to prevent contamination.