The young Christ's fellow Jews surround him in the temple, listening attentively as he preaches. Some consult the Torah at the same time, passing it between them; other men in turbaned headdresses gaze up as Christ gestures towards heaven. In the background, an attentive crowd sits underneath the arches and columns of the classical synagogue.
Guercino used brown ink energetically, describing the men's bodies swathed in long robes with quick, swirling pen strokes. The frenzied lines that surround Christ's upraised arm seem to suggest motion and his connection to his father above. Guercino used a top layer of brown wash to form hair, caps, beards, and shadows with broad, dark strokes.
One of Guercino's followers used this drawing and two others as the basis of a painting of the same subject for the church of San Francesco in Ferrara.