This intimate drawing captures the close relationship between a mother and child. Guido Reni emphasized the Holy Family's humanity and the infant's love and neediness, not his divinity as the Christ. Although a lightly drawn Joseph and an angel look on, they do not inhabit the same space as the more substantial mother and child, and neither Mary nor Jesus acknowledges their presence.
Scholars are uncertain about the purpose of this drawing. The hatched lines indicating shading hint that Reni may have made it with an etching in mind, though none survives. He at least considered an oval format, for his curved lines round off all four corners of the design, echoing Mary's embracing arms and bowed head.