This image is among Dürer’s most sorrowful depictions of the Virgin and Child. In contrast to earlier engravings of the subject, Dürer presents them as monumental figures. Here, the Virgin sits on a large cushion and pensively cradles a tightly swaddled Christ Child. His wrappings, closed eyes, and stiff appearance evoke his future death and his burial shroud, emphasizing the outcome of his Passion as well as Mary’s foreknowledge of the events. Dürer draws attention to the Virgin’s holiness by rendering her halo as a white orb that radiates shafts of light over the earth.
Dürer’s sculptural molding of the figures and his extensive use of middle tones to create dimension demonstrates his constantly evolving style and command of the medium in his late career.