Carlo Dolci painted this as part of a series depicting the Four Evangelists. Matthew is depicted transcribing the opening words of his Gospel, which are accurately reproduced in Hebrew, the saint's native language. With characteristically detailed brushwork, Dolci meticulously describes the textures of the saint's wispy beard, the heavy softness of his robe, even the dirt under his fingernails.
The artist’s refined, polished canvases appealed to seventeenth-century patrons, particularly in his native Florence. This series was painted for one of his confessors (probably Domenico Carpanti) and sold to him, according to a contemporary account, for the meagre price of five scudi a piece, scarcely enough to cover the cost of the artist’s materials. Such a gesture reflects the affection felt by the pious artist for his confessor, as well as his need to establish a reputation for himself at this early stage of his career.