The Madonna and Child are more clearly formed than in the Tondo Tadde and while whith her left hand she embraces the infant Jesus, who leans into her, He is bracing his head with a bent arm resting on the open book (bible) lying on her lap.
In this tondo Michelangelo placed, next to the stern Madonna, a Child whose pose recalls that of ancient funeral genii. Thus the overall effect, despite the apparently playful attitude of the Child, is deeply serious, and the Madonna has an almost prophetic force, because of her size, which bursts out from the frame of the relief.
The Madonna is seated on a low block of stone, filling the entire composition. But owing to the slightly oval format, and to her head breaking the tondo’s edge, she does not appear to be crowded. Her features are more sharply defined here than those of Michelangelo’s earlier Madonnas. Her full hair frames her angular dimpled face and more prominent chin. She wears an unusual ornamental head covering — the first in a series later employed by the master — which heightens the expression of watchfulness in her face.
The approaching figure of Saint John also plays a subordinate role and is left unfinished. He appears to have caught the Madonna’s attention as she looks back over her shoulder.