Renowned for the austere remoteness of his Mannerist paintings, Parmigianino nonetheless created drawings that display dynamic energy and human warmth. He used self-discipline to transform his initial passionate concepts from the freedom and rhythms of sheets like this to the famed glacial grace of his panel paintings. An instinctive and prolific draftsman, he often covered both sides of sheets with varied figures and themes.
Scholars generally connect the drawings on the recto--Saint John the Baptist, Saint Jerome, a crucifix seen from the side, and several heads--with Parmigianino's famous altarpiece, the Vision of Saint Jerome in the National Gallery of Art in London. Parmigianino may also have drawn these figures as a compositional study for a similar, earlier altarpiece that was either lost or never made. The verso includes a standing Christ Child, another crucifix, and a large, handsome greyhound that appears in a painting from about 1523.