This rare study was made in preparation for an engraving. The artist used both sides of the paper to explore ways of depicting the biblical scene of the Flagellation, in which Christ is violently scourged. On the recto (at left), Mantegna shows Christ twice as a muscular nude. His slumped posture, bound hands, and downcast expression convey his human suffering, whereas the heroic body and the halo communicate his divinity.
Mantegna probably started with the verso of the sheet (at right). Here, Christ's tormentor is depicted in an aggressive stance between two portrayals of Christ in agony. With little concern for detail, Mantegna loosely outlined the figures and experimented with alternative ways of showing Christ's bent, anguished body. The vulnerability of the Son of God deviates from the biblical account of his suffering and its depiction in earlier paintings.