This painting and 'The Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist' were originally the wings of an altarpiece. Here a male donor in ecclesiastical dress, probably a canon, is presented by Mary Magdalene (she is identified by the pot of balm with which she anointed Jesus). On the left-hand shutter the Virgin is supported by Saint John the Evangelist. The focus of her anguish was presumably the figure of Christ in the lost central panel of the altarpiece.
The antique influences on the style of the pictures strongly suggest they were painted after Heemskerck's return from a visit to Italy, where he studied Roman remains.