An unremarkable little bird at the top-left of the painting is witness to a peaceful moment between the Holy Family and John the Baptist, who are resting at the edge of a forest. The image completely fills the frame so there is little room for anything other than the figures in this intimate scene. The additional motifs, such as the bird, must therefore have been depicted by Benson for a reason. In early Netherlandish painting, when Mary and Child are portrayed with a bird it is usually a goldfinch. Legend has it that the little goldfinch plucked a thorn from Christ’s forehead during his procession to Calvary. As a result, a drop of the Saviour’s blood fell onto the goldfinch’s head, hence its characteristic red spot. The bird depicted in Benson’s painting, however, is not a goldfinch but a great tit. Why Benson deviated from the usual iconography is not known, perhaps he wanted to convey a different message that is now lost.