This highly finished study depicts the crucifixion of Christ. Mourning him are the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene. Strong diagonals, animated gestures, fluttering drapery, and gray-brown wash with white heightening vividly express the dramatic moment. The opaqueness of the white bodycolor allowed Pietro da Cortona to conceal some of his earlier attempts at drawing the figures, especially that of Saint John, who is bordered by an area of white that covers earlier positions for the right and left arms, the head, and left leg.
The drawing was a preparatory study for a painting Pietro da Cortona made for the high altar of the church of San Tommaso di Villanova in Castelgandolfo outside Rome. The oval painting was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII and corresponds closely to this finished study. The grid lines indicate that the drawing was squared, a method of preparing a composition for transfer to a larger surface.