Although no information on the sitter exists, the individualized facial features and contemporary dress indicate that this is a portrait. The painting was not, however, originally of this size and format. Examination of the panel shows that it was cut down from a much larger composition and later balanced with the addition of a narrow strip along the right side. It is possible that the original painting represented the sitter in three-quarter length against a dark green background, not unlike the Portrait of a Humanist from around 1520 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).

One of the most celebrated painters of the Italian Renaissance, Sebastiano del Piombo combined the resplendent colors characteristic of Venetian painting with clear modeling of form prized by central Italian artists. Applied to portraiture, this combination resulted in a particularly moving likeness of an individual.