A large part of the drawn œuvre of Jacopo Tintoretto consists of drawings after sculpture. At least thirty of such drawings are after the antique bust of Vitellius, about forty after Michelangelo's Medici tomb figures and over sixty after Michelangelo's Samson slaying the Philistines (see J. Marciari, Drawing in Tintoretto's Venice, exhib. cat., New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2019, pp. 91-113). The present drawing is part of the latter group and shows Michelangelo's model forcefully drawn on both sides of the sheet in Tintoretto's characteristic style.
In 1527, Michelangelo was commissioned to make a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus to be paired with the David on the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Due to political unrest, however, the project was halted and when Michelangelo resumed his work on the project he changed the subject into Samson slaying the Philistines. While Michelangelo did make a model for the sculpture, the final work was finished by Baccio Bandinelli, who changed the subject back into Hercules and Cacus. However, casts of Michelangelo's Samson slaying the Philistines became widely known and served as inspiration for artists, as is attested by the large number of drawings by Tintoretto that show the group. Tintoretto must have had a model of the sculpture, probably in clay or wax, after which he, as well as members of the studio, made faithful copies in order to get an understanding of the human figure. Drawings such as the present one give a rare inside in the studio of one of the most important artists from the 16th Century. The sheet is particularly comparable to a drawing showing the sculpture from the same angle in Christ Church, Oxford (inv. 360; see T. Pignatti, I disegni di Jacopo Tintoretto, Florence, 1975, fig. 35) and another in the Louvre (inv. 5394). While it is often hard to distinguish different hands from the Tintoretto studio, the quality of this sheet seems to suggest it could indeed have been executed by the master himself.