In the years around 1300, the most dominant artistic personality in Italian painting was the great Florentine Giotto di Bondone, whose monumental, insistently three-dimensional compositions forged some of the most crucial developments in Western art. By the first years of the 14th century, Giotto's renown had spread throughout the peninsula, and he was receiving commissions outside his native Tuscany, from as far north as Padua – where the chapel he decorated for the affluent banker Enrico Scrovegni would become one of his most lasting and influential achievements – to further south in Rimini, a city situated on the Adriatic coast. During his time in the latter city, Giotto painted a monumental crucifix which survives today, as well as a now-lost fresco cycle, both for the church of San Francesco. There can be no question that these works formed the basis of a developing school of Riminese painting, and that Giotto's innovations became the prevailing influence on art in that city throughout the first half of the Trecento. The works of Giuliano and Pietro da Rimini show a clear debt to Giotto's example, and in fact both those artists worked in Padua in the 1320s and would certainly have known the Scrovegni chapel firsthand. Giovanni da Rimini and, in the next generation, Giovanni Baronzio – who are not securely documented in Padua – both left pictures in Venice, suggesting the strong possibility that they too knew not only Giotto's Riminese commissions but those made for patrons further north.
Today, surviving panels by these early Rimenese painters are rare, and scholars have only recently begun to understand the individual careers of important Trecento painters of this school like Giovanni Baronzio. A comprehensive view of Baronzio's career began to emerge when Miklós Boskovits recognized that paintings formerly ascribed to several anonymous personalities – the Master of the Life of Saint John the Baptist, The Master of the Perry Nativity, Pseudo-Baornzio, and the Master of Saint Colomba – should in fact be given to Baronzio himself, and represent the developing style of a single artist. This hypothesis has been widely accepted by scholars who have now been able to reconstruct a more broadly defined and fully articulated corpus of Baronzio's work, spanning from the 1320s to the 1360s.
The present panel can be counted among the artist's early output, and has been dated by Benati (loc. cit.) to the 1320s. Its composition relates to that of another of Baronzio's paintings from that decade, a Crucifixion in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome (inv. 40172), and similarly reveals a focus on Giotto's carefully balanced spatial relationships between figures and their environment. The composition of both pictures, as is the case in many of Baronzio's panels, can be traced to a Giottesque model. In this case, Mary Magdalene's desperate clinging to the base of the cross and the swooning group of mourners at left who support the Virgin Mary recall Giotto's Crucifixion in the Arena chapel. Likewise, the angels near the top of the cross – one of whom proffers a bowl to gather the blood from Christ's wounds but cannot bring himself to look at the suffering Savior, while the other clutches her eyes dramatically at the sight – evoke the models in Giotto's Arena Chapel Crucifixion and Lamentation scenes. This connection to Giotto's work persists throughout Baronzio's career, as can be seen in the diptych wing datable to the mid-1340s now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. 09.103). That panel, like the present work, was once intended for private devotion and testifies the wide popularity Baronzio enjoyed in Rimini among both religious and lay patrons.