Laurent de La Hyre, son of the painter Etienne de La Hyre, received his first noteworthy commission from the House of the Capuchins in the Marais in Paris. His early successes in his native city may explain why, unlike many of his contemporaries, La Hyre did not choose to complete his artistic education in Rome. La Hyre found particular success among the religious orders in the city, and his personal style, which combined mannered gesture with a high degree of finish and bright coloring, was well-received. Other important commissions included a set of three mythological paintings for the Salle des Gardes in the Palais Cardinal, for Cardinal Richelieu, and numerous works for royal officials and members of the Parlement. In 1648, La Hyre was chosen as one of twelve 'Anciens' (professors) at the founding of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. His work became increasingly classical in tone over the course of his career, with an ordered sensibility, clear lighting, and a greater emphasis on landscape, a particular interest.
The present painting is a modello for a larger composition; however, as La Hyre painted several versions of this subject, it is difficult to determine for which one. It belongs to a relatively late moment in the artist's career, perhaps circa 1650. Professor Held at one time also a preparatory pencil sketch by La Hyre for the same altarpiece, which he donated to the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.