This classical subject is not one commonly painted. Correggio handles it with characteristic naturalism and tenderness.
The scene takes place in a forest clearing, with Mercury to right acting as schoolmaster to the young Cupid, accompanied by his mother Venus. Mercury apparently lacks his winged helmet and looks tenderly down towards Cupid while Venus, unusually shown with wings, faces more directly to the front in a decorous pose loosely based on the classical Venus Pudica.
Correggio was indebted to the example of Leonardo for the softness of his modelling but developed his own confidence and freedom in the handling of oil paint, shown in his creation of a sense of living flesh emerging from the darkess of the landscape.
The painting may have been painted for the ruler of Mantua, where it is first recorded in 1627 together with 'Antiope' (now in the Louvre, Paris). The nude figure in 'Antiope' is shown in a more abandoned posture.