Hitherto there has been no generally accepted painting by Rubens of this composition, which is authenticated as his creation by Han Witdoeck's engraving (Judson, op. cit., fig. 211); Witdoeck collaborated with Rubens during the last decade of the painter's life. Held and Judson listed the present work as the prime copy in a list of at least four others, which are wider in format but still have an oil sketch's dimensions. Smith recorded a fifth, owned by Mr. Norton (probably the dealer Peter Norton, active 1814-1869) with further different dimensions (J. Smith, Catalogue Raisonné. Life and Works of Rubens, II, 1830, under no. 164).
Judgment concerning the present work is hampered by later interventions. The composition (now?) lacks the third Mary on the left. Ludwig Burchard apparently certified it as the work by Rubens in the 1950s. More recently, it has been suggested that it might have been begun by Rubens and worked up by a later hand. Indeed, the figure of Joseph of Arimathea in the centre, which seems better preserved, suggests Rubens's handling around 1614. The colour range of the costumes also reflects Rubens's predelictions of about this time. However, the general consensus, stemming back to R. Oldenbourg (Rubens, K. de K., Stuttgart-Berlin, 1921, p. 472, note to p. 448), has been to date the composition to the last decade of Rubens's life. Note Witdoeck's most celebrated print, The Elevation of the Cross, of 1638, prepared for by a special modello by Rubens, but which was based on his celebrated triptych in Antwerp Cathedral of 1610.
Judson pointed out that in the present composition, Rubens depicted the fourteenth station of the Cross. He followed the accounts given by the Evangelists Matthew (XXVII, 54-61) and Mark (XV, 46-7). Rubens also laid particular stress on the wheat, which refers to the Eucharist and to Mark VI, 41; '…he [Christ] said, I am the bread tat tcame from Heaven'.