Perino del Vaga produced this delicate ink and wash design as a study for frescoes in a chapel within the Vatican. The Adoration of the Magi appears on both sides of the arched, recessed window at the top. The three kings gather to admire the Christ Child standing in his mother's lap on the right. In the center of the lower register is the Crucifixion scene, surrounded by scenes from the Passion of Christ, the theme of the chapel. The coats of arms of various popes fill the window frame at the top.
In 1520 this chapel was assigned to the Vatican's Swiss Guards, and shortly afterwards Perino was commissioned to decorate it. Scholars believe that this drawing was made around 1522 because it contains the coat of arms of Pope Adrian VI, who only led the Church for a year, from 1522 and 1523. Perino began work on the frescoes in 1522 but he never completed them because of a serious plague outbreak in 1523. The frescoes were later finished by Polidoro da Caravaggio.