Luke's Gospel says that after conceiving Jesus, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was three months pregnant with John the Baptist. When she entered Elizabeth's house, the baby John leapt in the womb and Elizabeth greeted her as "the mother of my Lord."
Essentially the same story is told in the Protevangelium of James, which however places the recognition events at the doorway of Elizabeth's house. Most images follow the Protevangelium in putting the figures at or near the doorway, as we see at left, or even outside the "city of Judah" where Luke says Elizabeth lived, in order to show the city in the background (example).
In some very ancient images a small figure of a youth looks out at the two women from inside the house. The youth can be seen in works as widely separated as a 6th-century Istrian mosaic and a French Romanesque tympanum, but he disappears from Gothic and later art in the West.
Elizabeth is often shown embracing Mary, sometimes placing her hand on her young cousin's belly (example) or breast (example).
Feast day: none
At left, Giotto's Arena Chapel Visitation, 1305-6