The central (and centered) motif is young Virgin Mary with her naked Baby Jesus on her lap. Mary is seated and wears precious clothes and jewellery. With her left hand, she is holding a carnation (interpreted as a healing symbol). The faces are put into light while all other objects are darker, e.g. the carnation is covered by a shadow. The child is looking up, the mother is looking down — there is no eye contact. The setting of the portrait is a room with two windows on each side of the figures.
Originally this painting was thought to have been created by Andrea del Verrocchio but subsequent art historians agree that it is Leonardo's work.
Madonna and Child was a common motif in Christian art during the Middle Ages. This painting is the only work by Leonardo which is permanently on display in Germany.