The attribution to Lelio Orsi of this important and previously unpublished drawing has kindly been confirmed by Professor Massimo Pirondini, on the basis of a photograph, in a communication dated 20 May 2007. Professor Pirondini, noting that it is 'una bellissima prova del pittore e un inedito straordinario', suggests that this drawing is likely to be the one listed by Abbot Luigi Pungileoni (1762-1844) as a drawing of 'Salvatore con li manigoldi che lo mettono in croce disegnato con molta forza' in a private collection in Parma in the early 19th Century (L. Pungileone, Memorie istoriche di Antonio Allegri detto il Correggio, Parma, 1821, III, p. 24).
The composition of the present drawing shows the clear influence of Michelangelo, most particularly in the latter's paintings in the Pauline Chapel at the Vatican (1542-50). Indeed a letter from Lelio Orsi written to Rome and dated 29 November 1559, now lost but recorded in a register in the archives at Novellara, records his request for a drawing of Michelangelo's compositions in the chapel (E. Monducci and M. Pirondini, Lelio Orsi, exhib. cat., Reggio Emilia, Teatro Valli, 1987-88, p. 272, no. 102). The soldier leaning forward to the left of the scene is reminiscent of a soldier in the same position in Michelangelo's Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Pauline Chapel, as indeed are the group of soldiers appearing over the brow of the hill. As a further quotation from Michelangelo, the soldiers leaning down to arrange Christ's arm and legs on the cross are close in pose to the angels pulling up the Saved in the fresco of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. The strong influence of Michelangelo has led to the suggestion that Orsi was in Rome in the early 1540s, and he is recorded there with more certainty in 1554-55.
This drawing also shows the strong stylistic influence of Giulio Romano, whose work Orsi would have experienced at first hand in the frescoes at the Palazzo Te at Mantua, and of Parmigianino, likewise working very close to Reggio Emilia and Novellara where Orsi was active for the greater part of his career.