A fragment of a cartoon for the tapestry of Saint Paul preaching in Athens in the Vatican (see L. Dussler, Raphael, A critical catalogue of his pictures, wall-paintings and tapestries, London, 1971, pp. 104-8, fig. 186).
The head, in reverse, appears in the lower left corner of the composition. The present drawing was probably part of a larger cartoon copied from Raphael's and executed in reverse before being used for the tapestry. Seven of Raphael's original cartoons are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Two other fragments of cartoons for the same cycle, of approximately the same size and probably by the same hand as the present drawing, formerly in the Jabach collection are in the Louvre (D. Cordellier and B. Py, Raphael, son atelier, ses copistes, Paris, 1992, nos. 392-3). Another cartoon fragment, a head of a man facing left, was sold in these Rooms, 6 July 1999, lot 13.
The tapestry was part of the set of ten based on the Acts of Apostles. The tapestries were woven in Brussels in the studio of Pieter van Aelst and most were delivered by 1519. They were intended to be hung below the narrative frescoes that were part of Pope Sixtus IV's original scheme for the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, replacing the trompe l'oeil hangings already in place.