In this highly sculptural drawing of a head, Sebastiano del Piombo combined black and white chalk to fully model a three-dimensional form. The roughly applied black chalk accentuates the impression of the play of light over the saint's face. Roughly drawn lines suggest the tousled curls on his head, while softer shadows darken his cheeks and eye socket. White chalk highlights the edges of his nose and ear.
Sebastiano produced this cartoon for the figure of Saint James in a fresco in a chapel in Rome. In the final fresco, the head of the saint appears at a sharp angle; the joins of the sheets making up this cartoon indicate that it also was composed this way. This head once formed part of a larger sheet, but someone silhouetted it at a later date.