James Ensor made this drawing as a preparatory study for the centerpiece drawing--about ten times larger than this sheet--of a series of five drawings and one painting that he exhibited in 1887 in Brussels with Les XX. He might also have used this drawing as part of a triptych, flanked on each side by Christ Shown to the People and Christ Ascending to Heaven. With these early drawings, Ensor became increasingly preoccupied with portraying Jesus Christ. He began exploring the theme of Christ's entry, which evolved into his enormous painting, Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889.
Ensor used graphite to outline all the elements of this complex composition, emphasizing special areas with Conté crayon. His lively linear technique imbued the whole scene with tumultuous energy. He used a similar technique to establish the main masses, drama, and focus of the scene on the verso, sketching a subject that he may have contemplated including in the series.