The inscription in Jordaens's hand on the verso of this sheet records a verse in old Dutch from the Bible, Isaiah 53:7: 'He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.' This is the section in which Isaiah foretells the life of Christ and the choice of this particular passage as Jordaens's source explains the unusual prominence of the sheep and the lamb in this crowded scene of the Way to Calvary.
Jordaens's inscription, giving the date of execution, enables the present sheet to be linked with other works which show that the artist was at this date engaged in exploring various aspects of the Passion. Two days earlier, on 27 March 1658, he had executed a chalk and watercolour modello of The Crucifixion (Saint Petersburg, Hermitage, inv. 4203). He was also working on a painting of Christ carrying the Cross for the Church of Saint Francis Xavier in Amsterdam (circa 1655-60; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), which has a similarly crowded composition to the present drawing and which replicates a number of the motifs, such as the high priests on horseback and the man carrying a ladder (Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678): Paintings and Tapestries, exhib. cat., Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 1993, no. A91).
The authenticity of the drawing was confirmed by Prof. d'Hulst (written communication, 18 January 1978).