The workshop of Parmigianino was one of the chief centers of chiaroscuro printmaking in the 1500s. Antonio da Trento, Parmigianino's student in Bologna from 1527 to 1531, made several chiaroscuro prints after his master's drawings. This print, considered da Trento's first collaborative effort with Parmigianino, was based on a drawing executed in Rome between 1524 and 1527 for a potential papal commission.
It shows the imminent beheading of saint Paul, kneeling in the foreground, and the forthcoming crucifixion of Saint Peter, dragged away by his long beard by an executioner. According to tradition, the martyrdom of these two saints was ordered by the Roman Emperor Nero on the same day.