A diagonal line follows the diminishing figures, from the looming body of the good thief at the extreme left edge, to Christ hanging on the cross in the center, to the bad thief at the right, and finally down toward Jerusalem, lightly sketched in the distance. A tumultuous group of figures and horses crowds around the feet of Jesus at the left, with rearing horses, the Virgin weeping, and Saint John pointing at himself; but the top left of the composition remains open. With such techniques, Hans von Aachen created an effect of dramatic spaciousness.
Von Aachen probably made this large and impressive drawing as a preliminary study for a painting. He first sketched the composition extensively in black chalk, which is particularly visible in the torso and hand of the thief in the upper left corner and in the city of Jerusalem in the lower right. Next he laid in the figure groups in gray wash, making extensive use of the white paper for highlights; finally, he worked over the entire composition, defining elements with relatively sparing touches of pen and brown ink.