In her hand, Mary holds a pear, one of the fruits of Paradise, which presents her as the new Eve. The Christ Child sits on her knees and plays with its opposite, a rosary that alludes to the Passion. Saint John, as a boy, stands behind a column, pointing to the Sacred Scriptures that announce Christ’s mission as savior, which is the message that underlies this devout representation of the Virgin and Child. The scene takes place under renaissance architecture in the form of a gallery or observatory open to a garden. Behind it lies a broad landscape with a river.
Between 1515 and 1520, van Orley made several works on the same subject, but this one stands out for its background, as well as for the couple in the garden with their backs to the viewer. These are similar to what is depicted in Jan van Eyck’s Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, at the Louvre in Paris.