The relief is after the Renaissance painting of the Madonna and Child created by Raphael around 1514. He painted it during his Roman period. The artwork is also known as Madonna della Sedia, "seggiola" and "sedia" being Italian for chair. Its title comes from the fact that the Madonna is sitting on a chair, visible only from the post in the foreground. A young St. John admires them in the background. The heavenly figures fill the tondo (a circular artwork), and this close proximity gives viewers the sense that they are sharing the same space with them. It's also possible that the magnification towards the center of the work was meant to resemble that of a convex mirror, which was associated with the Immaculate Conception.
Raphael's piece has been copied over the centuries into such art as paintings and engravings, and this version is by an unknown artist. Queen Victoria of England gave her husband Prince Albert, a fan of Raphael, one such copy - a watercolor by Robert Thorburn. Raphael's original was acquired by the Medici family, but has been in the Pitti Palace in Florence since the 18th century. For a time in the early 1800s, the artwork was housed in Paris after being seized by Napoleon's troops.
The other piece we're featuring shows a woman that, though frozen in cast plaster, has the appearance of standing at the edge of a pool, her head tilted in a manner similar to the Mother Mary above. But instead of resting it against an infant, she smiles to herself. She is doing the everyday task of bathing and is completely at peace.
This figure is, of course, the Roman Goddess and is titled, The Venus at the Bath (Reduction) by Christophe-Gabriel Allegrain: