The attribution to Guercino was confirmed by Denis Mahon in a letter to the present owner dated 7 December 1970. The drawing was possibly made in preparation for a picture of Saint Francis Xavier. Mahon dates the drawing to circa 1653, the year that Guercino received the equivalent of 60 ducats from the Principe di Massa for a mezza figura di San Francesco Saverio. Upon its completion, the work was sent to Palermo but is now untraced (B. Ghelfi, Il libro dei conti del Guercino 1629-1666, Bologna, 1997, p. 162, no. 473).