The maternal gene bicoid (bcd) organizes anterior development in Drosophila. Its mRNA is localized at the anterior tip of the oocyte and early embryo. Antibodies raised against bcd fusion proteins recognize a 55-57 kd doublet band in Western blots of extracts of 0-4 hr old embryos. This protein is absent or reduced in embryonic extracts of nine of the 11 bcd alleles. The protein is concentrated in the nuclei of cleavage stage embryos. It cannot be detected in oocytes, indicating temporal control of bcd mRNA translation. The bcd protein is distributed in an exponential concentration gradient with a maximum at the anterior tip, reaching background levels in the posterior third of the embryo. The gradient is probably generated by diffusion from the local mRNA source and dispersed degradation.