There are a number of drawings by Raphael in the collection. However, none capture the naturalness and intimacy of this study. The woman and child are in contemporary dress, yet their pose captures a scene instantly recognisable today. The woman tries unsuccessfully to encourage the child to read, yet he is distracted. Her arm supports, yet gently restrains the child, who twists away from the book he has lost interest in.
The reality of the drawing suggests that they are real people who the artist has observed. They could be mother and child or a servant with her young charge. Raphael conveys so much of their relationship through the child's pose: he leans trustingly into her body, crossing his feet in a relaxed manner, while she supports him. By portraying the child looking out of the drawing, the artist engages and involves us in the scene.
This drawing was originally part of the collection of Sir Peter Lely, and was acquired by the 2nd Duke of Devonshire in the late 17th century.