Nicolas Spinosa dates the present painting of a male nude to the artist's Neapolitan sojourn, from 1653-1660 (loc. cit.). In particular, the scholar links this powerful exploration of light and shadow to similar male figures such as Preti's Saint Sebastian, which the artist painted for the church of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori in Naples (today housed in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples) and his Saint Paul the Hermit (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto), both of which he dates to around or just after 1655-1656. The present painting's medium of oil on paper and its intimate scale, together with its stylistic treatment, indicate that it is most likely a preparatory study for an unknown composition. The pose and body type, as Spinosa notes, suggest that it could have been intended for a Christ figure in a Deposition or Pietá, or quite possibly a dying saint similar to the one seen in the Capodimonte canvas. Reflecting Preti's preoccupation in this period with exploring the potential spiritual and emotional impact of an intensely lit, single figure presented against dark background, this male nude appears to emerge out of the shadows in a moment of intense quietude. This expressive use of chiaroscuro owes much to Caravaggio and Jusepe de Ribera, yet Preti's own innovations are on display here, particularly in the bravura brushwork seen in the highlights around the figure's head, forearm and foot.
Spinosa (loc. cit.) has identified the present study as the painting that was recorded in the inventory of the collection of the French painter Adrien Manglard that was prepared upon the artist's death in Rome on 29 January 1761 as 'Altro [quadro] di due palmi per traverse rappresentante Accedemia del Calabrese, senza cornice', however, the inventory number does not appear to correspond with the number on the reverse.