Two angels swoop down to hover above the manger where the infant Jesus lies sleeping on a pile of straw, cradled by his mother Mary. Numerous other angels peer over her shoulders, eagerly crowding around Joseph to catch a glimpse of the infant Christ, while local shepherds kneel to pay homage with their backs turned to the viewer.
Baciccio concentrated on rendering the powerful effects of light in this preparatory study for his painting of the same subject in a church in central Italy. Light seems to radiate from the baby, casting a brilliant glow over the faces of those gathered around his crib. In contrast, broad areas of wash create bold shadows over the bodies of the shepherds crouched on the edge of the drawing. Baciccio also used exuberant, free lines that give the scene a sense of dynamic movement.