Sharp, angular, energetic lines, seen most clearly on the verso figure, frequently characterized Pontormo's drawing style. While these are merely studies, exploring ideas for parts of a painting, they clearly suggest the emotional intensity of his art and the sharp contrast with the preceding ideal of classical High Renaissance harmony.
Pontormo made these drawings as preliminary figure studies for an altarpiece commissioned for a church in Florence in 1518, a work that some scholars consider the first clear manifestation of Mannerism in Italian painting. The full-length figure on the recto served as a source for the putto at the painting's top right.
The kneeling figure on the verso was a study for the young John the Baptist, who appears in the same general pose at the painting's center and also looks upward. In working out the exact pose for this figure, Pontormo first drew the right leg sharply bent in red chalk, then sketched it in fully extended. In the final painting, he settled on an angle between the two.