According to the New Testament Gospel of Saint John after his Resurrection Christ appeared to the disciples and showed them his wounds. Thomas was absent and when they told him that they had seen the Lord he would not believe them and said: 'Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe' (John 20: 19-27). Eight days later Thomas placed his finger in the wound in Christ's side and was convinced that Christ had risen from the dead.
The picture was commissioned in 1497 by the Scuola di San Tommaso dei Battuti for their altar in the church of San Francesco in Portogruaro, north of Venice. The Scuola was a penitential and charitable lay association which administered four hospitals in Portogruaro. The altarpiece was completed in 1504 but was probably started several years before; Cima did not receive full payment until 1509.
Numerous paint losses, due to blistering as a result of flood damage, have been restored.