In 1515 Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to make cartoons for a series of ten tapestries to decorate the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Raphael made this drawing as a study for the figure of Saint Paul in the Sacrifice at Lystra, one of the ten tapestries illustrating the Acts of the Apostles.
The apostle Saint Paul tears his garment in anger at the people of Lystra in Asia Minor, who had prepared a sacrificial offering to the apostle and Saint Barnabas. After the two saints had miraculously cured a lame man, the people of Lystra believed that Paul and Barnabas were the pagan gods Mercury and Jupiter. The expression on Saint Paul's face and the contortion of his body convey his anguish at the pagan offering.
In this drawing Raphael used the metalpoint technique. This laborious technique requires the utmost skill: once a line is drawn in metalpoint, it is very difficult to remove or correct it.