Like two lovers, the Virgin Mary and Christ face each other in tender intimacy. At the foot of the Cross, the mother bends down towards her son, whose half-raised body still appears to be alive. Their youthful faces, merged into a single unit by the touching haloes, are full of grief and pain. Moreau extracts from the traditional motif a new, dreamlike echo. The earth tones lend the painting the look of an Old Master. Done in the small format of a devotional painting, the work is permeated by a deep religious sincerity. Its otherworldly, spiritual atmosphere reveals Moreau as a precursor of the Symbolists.
It can be assumed that the painting’s donor mentioned in the inventory book as Leopold B. H. Goldschmidt, Paris, was in fact Leopold Benedikt Hayum Goldschmidt. He was the son of Benedikt Hayum Goldschmidt (1798–1873), who had founded Bankhaus B. H. Goldschmidt in Frankfurt in the nineteenth century. It is not known when precisely Goldschmidt moved to Paris – it may have been after the Prussian conquest of Frankfurt in 1866. He remained registered as a member of the Städelscher Museums-Verein for many years after.