Using soft, broad strokes of black chalk, Pontormo built up the figure of a young man lying on his right side, propping himself up on his elbow. Ambiguous facial features indicate that Pontormo was more interested in the figure's posture than in a true likeness of an individual. Pontormo made this drawing as a preparatory study for a scene of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence for the Certosa del Galluzzo, a monastery outside Florence. However, it was Pontormo's pupil Bronzino who executed the finished fresco.
Saint Lawrence is usually depicted as a young man. According to legend, Lawrence was a third-century Roman deacon who was responsible for distributing goods to the poor. When a greedy high-ranking official demanded that Lawrence give him the church's treasure, Lawrence presented a group of poor people, saying that they were the church's treasure. For this defiant act, he was arrested and tortured on a burning gridiron. In the finished work, Bronzino made only small changes to Pontormo's composition. Bronzino's figure lies on a gridiron and turns his head to the left, as he is crowned by a cherub. He holds a palm leaf in his left hand, an emblem of martyrdom. Pontormo's drawing probably provided Bronzino with a model for human musculature and proportions that artists strived to achieve in the 1500s.