The drawing probably records Giovanni Battista Passeri (1610-1679) painting frescoes in the Palazzo Doria-Pamphilj in Rome in 1661. At that time Mola was in litigation with Prince Pamphilj over some frescoes he begun in the Prince's villa at Valmontone outside Rome. Passeri was the uncle of Giuseppe Passeri and is today better known as the author of the Vite de'pittori, scultori ed architetti than as a painter. His life of Mola suggests that he was quite fond of him.
Mola did a number of caricatures in which he drew himself in a humorous way, such as Mola at a table with flying letters in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Time discovers Truth at the Louvre, Mola with monsters and Figures admiring a picture in private collections, London (N. Turner, Pier Francesco Mola, exhib. cat., Lugano, Museo Cantonale d'Arte, 1989, nos. III 101-4). His favorite sitter, though, was Nicolò Simonelli (died 1671) whom he depicted in numerous caricatures.
The present lot and the following one have the same watermark as another caricature by Mola in a private collection, London (N. Turner, op. cit., no. III. 105).
Nicholas Turner has confirmed the attribution to Mola on studying the drawing in the original.