The painting is still in its original frame, one that Michelangelo might have influenced or helped design. The frame is ornately carved and rather unusual for the five heads it contains which protrude three-dimensionally into space. Similar to the nudes of the background, the meanings of these heads has been the subject of speculation. The frame also contains carvings of crescent moons, stars, vegetation, and lions’ heads. These symbols are, perhaps, references to the Doni and Strozzi families, taken from each one’s coat of arms. As depicted on the frame, “the moons are bound together with ribbons that interlock with the lions,” possibly referring to the marriage of the two families.
There is a horizontal band, possibly a wall, separating the foreground and background. The background figures are five nudes, whose meaning and function are subject to much speculation and debate. Because they are much closer to us, the viewers, the Holy Family is much larger than the nudes in the background, a device to aid the illusion of deep space in a two-dimensional image. Behind Saint John the Baptist is a semi-circular ridge, against which the 'ignudi' are leaning, or upon which they are sitting. This semi-circle reflects or mirrors the circular shape of the painting itself and acts as a foil to the vertical nature of the principal group (the Holy family). Mary and Joseph gaze at Christ, but none of the background nudes looks directly at him. The far background contains a mountainous landscape rendered in atmospheric perspective.