In the tradition of his Flemish predecessors, Memling's painting contains a wealth of religious meaning; it is filled with symbols which explain the importance of Christ's mission on earth. Jesus reaches out for an apple, emblem of Original Sin; his attitude of acceptance foreshadows his future sacrifice on the cross. The angel who offers the fruit of redemption is in fact dressed in a dalmatic, the liturgical vestment worn by a deacon during the solemn High Mass. Around the arch is a carved vine of grapes referring to the wine of the eucharistic rite. On the crystal and porphyry columns stand David, as an ancestor of Christ, and Isaiah, one of the prophets who foretold the Virgin Birth.
Memling adhered closely to the northern tradition in art; the format and details of the enthroned Madonna theme recall Jan van Eyck. It is believed that Memling worked in the studio of Rogier van der Weyden at Brussels before settling in Bruges; here, he adopted Rogier's angular figural types clothed in heavy, crisp drapery, but transformed the older artist's dramatic intensity into a calm and graceful elegance. The framing archway was a device used by a number of Flemish painters including Rogier. While combining various influences, Hans Memling's own tender and pious sentiment made him the most popular artist of his day in Bruges.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Early Netherlandish Painting, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/early-netherlandish-painting.pdf