The theme of the Crucified Christ was an important one in Counter-reformation Italy, and Giambologna returned to it several times during the course of his career. The first documentary source for his having executed such a bronze is in a letter written by Simone Fortuna to the Duke of Urbino in 1583, when the former expresses his desire to acquire a small crucifix by the sculptor (Avery, op. cit., pp. 199-200). In the letter he cites four examples which have been executed in different metals, including one for Pope Pius V, whose papacy lasted from 1566-1572, thereby providing a terminus ante quem for the artist's treatment of the theme.
Giambologna produced crucifixes with both a living and a dead Christ on several different scales, including a life size example of the latter for his own funerary chapel. The present bronze is most closely related to two other examples: in Douai, and one on the art market at the time of the 1978 exhibition on Giambologna (op. cit., nos. 108 and 110). Each one is virtually identical in height, and shows the same overall body proportions, identical form to the perizonium, and facial details. The Douai corpus is said to have been purchased from the Vecchietti family in the 19th century, and it is assumed to have descended from Bernardo Vecchietti, a close friend and important early patron of Giambologna. Although numerous examples of Giambologna's corpus figures are known to have emanated from his workshop, the present example is notable for its rich colour, the 'structured' nature of the perizonium and the subtlety of the chasing to the hair, beard, hands and feet.