The sheet, of heavy laid paper, has an unidentified watermark, but similar to others produced in Italy between 1520 and 1530. It comes from the personal collection of Antonio Lafreri (1512 - 1577) who was an engraver and publisher in Rome. The eight small prints, which are part of Parmigianino's engravings corpus, are laid out on a single sheet. The artists printed multiple plates on the same sheet and then they trimmed individual images for the collectors' market. Considering the rarity of each single etching, this specimen is probably unique in the world.
The setting of the scene appears complex and unusual since the action takes place within a well-studied and articulated architecture. The Holy Family, in the foreground, is in a mysterious dimness, while the shepherds, who are rushing with their sinuous bodies and with large and elegant gestures, seem to shine with light. Parmigianino has obtained an extraordinary richness of nuances thanks to the complex development of the elongated and rounded lines, the dense cross-hatching and the dotted lines that give emotion to the representation.