As Jacob Bean has shown, Crespi's drawings and paintings bear little in common: 'it was only with brush in hand that he took those liberties that give his work its particular savor'. As a draughtsman, Crespi 'seems to have been a diligent professore del disegno, working in an established Bolognese tradition' ('Drawings by Giuseppe Maria Crespi', Master Drawings, IV, (1966), p. 419).
The double-sided drawing illustrates perfectly this with its red chalk technique, its study of two male nudes and its treatment which recalls Domenico Maria Canutti (Crespi's master) or Carlo Cignani's drawings.
It can also be compared to a print representing Saint Luke where the saint adopts the same pose as the Hercules on the recto and to figures painted by Crespi circa 1700 at the ceiling of the Stanza dell' Olimpo and of the Stanza del Trionfo di Ercole at Palazzo Pepoli in Bologna (M. Pajes Merriman, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Milan, 1980, no. 148).
The attribution to Crespi has been confirmed independently by Nicolas Turner and Mario di Giampaolo.