The attribution was first suggested by Dr. Merz in a letter to the previous owner, dated 8 November 1996. He relates the drawing to an altarpiece painted by Ferri for the Church of Saint Marco in Rome, B.W. Davis, The Drawings of Ciro Ferri, New York, 1985, pp. 6-7, pl. 1. Another version of this composition was with Thomas Williams in 1992.
The church of Saint Marco was re-decorated by Cortona between 1653 and 1657. Bruce Davis dates the picture to the beginning of that period, following Baldinucci's account of an unknown commission to Cortona for the church of Saint Marco. According to Baldinucci the commission went originally to Cortona, who then asked the young Ferri to execute the altarpiece. Cortona gave the picture to the patron as his own work, but when the deception was uncovered 'there were few who did not also want works by Ferri'.