A life-drawing class is about to begin at Bologna's Accademia Clementina. At the center, the master directs the model's pose while the students talk animatedly. A background niche holds a plaster model or drawing of the ancient Roman sculpture, the Farnese Hercules.The master's features, particularly his large nose, suggest that Zanotti may have portrayed himself here.
To continue the Bolognese painting tradition established by the Carracci, particularly its emphasis on life drawing from the nude, Zanotti helped to found the Accademia Clementina in 1710. Life drawing was the basis of instruction at the Accademia, so the subject was appropriate for this drawing, the basis for an engraved frontispiece to Zanotti's Storia dell'Accademia Clementina di Bolognaof 1739.
Zanotti began by sketching with black chalk, then went over those lines with pen and ink. His thought process is evident in the chalk underdrawing of the lamp and its rope, which he initially drew farther to the left. Zanotti, who probably also made the engraving, went over the principal outlines with the stylus to transfer the design to the copperplate for engraving.