Very few drawings can be attributed to Antonello with any certainty. Following Robert Lehmans acquisition of this sheet in the 1920s, it was generally considered a work by the Netherlandish artist Petrus Christus, or by a sculptor in the orbit of Claus Sluter because of the resemblance of its heavily draped figures to the famous pleurants (or mourners) on the latter's tomb sculptures in Dijon. The alternative attribution to Antonello da Messina was made independently by Julius Held (letter of 1938) and Roberto Longhi (1953).
It was Longhi who associated the study with the group of "Burgundian" mourners at the foot of the cross in Antonello's early Crucifixion (Muzeul Naçional de Arra, Bucharest), a painting probably dating from the 1460s; this suggestion was rather widely accepted. The interpretation of the drawing became more complex when, in 1983, the Louvre acquired a closely related sheet. The bottom half includes six identical women, with an additional four at the right side. Above the women on the Louvre sheet, however, rises a majestic series of buildings shown in deep perspective. Tall crenellated palaces and towers recede in space to an arched gate, before which is a tiny figure. The tunneling perspective is reminiscent of that in drawings from Jacopo Bellini's sketchbooks, and there is nothing quite like it in Antonello's work before his Venerian period more specifically, until the background of the Saint Sebastian painted (or the church of San Giuliano in Venice (fig. 2), perhaps as late as 1478 (Lucco 1990). This raises the possibility that both drawings date from the later 1470s, although the connection of the figures to somewhat earlier Burgundian and Netherlandish art cannot be denied. It also remains an open question as to whether both drawings are autograph works by the master. Anna Forlani Tempesti and Dominique Thiébaut have noted (1991, 1993) that the Lehman sheet is not as precise and delicate in its details, or as convincingly descriptive (although drawn in a distinctive, stippled technique). Thus, our drawing may be a less carefully executed autograph replica. or one produced in the artist's workshop following his design.