The subject of the present drawing relates to one of Volterrano's most celebrated pictures, La burla del pievano Arlotto, painted circa 1670 and now in the Galleria Palatina at the Pitti Palace, Florence (G. Cantelli, Repertorio della Pittura Fiorentina del Seicento, Florence, 1983, pls. 411-412). Arlotto Mainardi (1396-1483) was a priest from San Cresci a Maciuoli near Fiesole famous for his sense of humour and practical jokes. Stories grew up around his life and he became a 'character' in later Tuscan burlesque tradition. The story also inspired a pair of paintings by Volterrano, now lost, commissioned by Carlo de'Medici.
A compositional drawing for La burla del pievano Arlotto was sold at Sotheby's, London, 4 July 1994, lot 11, while preparatory drawings for the later compositions La burla del pievano Arlotto a Ser Ventura and La burla all'osteria della consuma, are respectively in the Fondazione Roberto Longhi, Florence (M.C. Fabri, Il Seicento Fiorentino, exhib. cat., Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 1986, no. 2.307) and sold at Christie's, South Kensington, 21 April 1998, lot 53.