Murillo was the most important religious artist in Spain at the time this work was painted.
The altarpiece was commissioned by Ambrosio Ignacio Spnola y Guzmn, Archbishop of Seville (1670 - 84) for his private chapel in his Seville palace.
During the Spanish Peninsular War (1808 - 14) the palace was the headquarters of the French marshal Soult, who took the altarpiece with him as war booty. However, he did not have the central area of the canvas showing the faces of the Virgin and Child. The two separated parts were not reunited until they were acquired by the British collector Lord Overstone.