Madonna and Child adored by two Saints. Follower of Carlo Maratta (1625-1713). Black chalk, brown ink and wash on buff paper.
This scene is taking place in Heaven, which artists usually locate in the sky. All the figures are on clouds.
There are two figures of children and five child’s heads. The two figures are the infant Jesus, in the arms of his mother Mary (the Madonna) and a winged cherub. The heads are those of other cherubs in the clouds.
The lines drawn across the sketch are for ‘squaring up’. By dividing the composition this way, the artist can copy what’s in each square onto a large canvas or wall. Instead of trying to copy the whole drawing, you copy it square by square.
This type of design with a central Mary and infant Jesus, plus saints on either side, was typical for large paintings intended to be placed above altars in churches and cathedrals. Altarpiece painting was a main source of income for artists in the Christian world.