This densely worked drawing is a fine example of how Giandomenico Tiepolo continued to draw on the motifs and techniques of his father Giambattista's drawings throughout his life. A sheet by Giambattista, showing a cluster of overlapping heads of the same type, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (G. Knox, Tiepolo drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1960, no. 59, illus.).
The present drawing was first attributed to Domenico by James Byam Shaw, who suggested dating it to the late 1750s on the basis of a connection between some of the studies and Domenico's work at the Villa Valmarana (1757). The attribution has more recently been confirmed by George Knox, who suggested that the striking head of a cleric at lower right could represent the blessed Jerome Emiliani, whose beatification by Pope Benedict XIV in 1747 was recorded by Domenico in an etching. Domenico also executed a painting of that scene for the Oratorio del Crocefisso at San Polo, Venice, although this picture is now lost. If the head of the priest can indeed be connected to the Beatification, that would suggest a slightly earlier date for the drawing, in the 1740s.