It contains the Virgin Mary and Christ as a child surrounded by nature and symbolises her connectivity to the meadow. The style of the painting is classical of Bellini's style during his period of activity in the late 15th century and early 16th century.
This painting is full of small details that add to the overall image that Bellini is trying to portray of the Virgin Mary's humility towards nature, harking back to Medieval artistry and style. The most prominent imagery that is invoked however, is the foreshadowing of the body of Jesus Christ sprawled upon his mother's lap. What seems at first to be a very natural pose is actually in the style of the Renaissance sculpture, Pietà.
Michelangelo's masterpiece envisions the Virgin Mary carrying the body of her dead son and even though the innocence of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child is at the forefront of the painting, the pose seems to emulate this darker message beneath the surface. This is confirmed even more in the ever-watchful vulture that lies in wait in the top left corner of the painting.
The message between good and evil also seems to be suggested by the crane and snake on the left side of the painting. The crane and the snake seem to be in a battle of sorts, a symbolisation between the struggle between good and evil, especially in the presence of the Virgin Mary and Christ.
The Madonna del Prato was originally created using oil and egg tempera, which was common during the early Renaissance period. However, in 1949 it was transferred to canvas, causing severe damage in places. This damage is particularly noticeable in the colouring of the Christ Child and the Madonna figures in the painting. Consequently, conservation has been maintained so as not to cause further damage to the painting, which is carried out by the National Gallery in London, where it currently resides.
It is not known who initially commissioned the painting of Madonna del Prato. However, it has influenced the likes of other Renaissance painters, such as Raphael, who painted his own version of Madonna in the Meadow the year after Bellini finished his masterpiece.