The sketch served as a design for the later high altar in the church in Sedlec near Kutná Hora, consecrated to SS Philip and James (demolished in 1817). The painting was commissioned by the abbot of the local Cistercian monastery, Jindřich Snopek, whose correspondence with the painter proves detailed consultations. It was already in the preparatory phase that Willmann was trying to solve the dramatic effects of light in particular - the dark background sets off most distinctly the martyrs’ bodies and the figures of angels in the heavenly sphere. The energetic and dynamic composition is based on the style of Peter Paul Rubens’s painting, which interested Willmann very much. Within Central-European painting, Willmann came to be a foremost expert as regards the theme of the apostles’ martyrdoms. In each of them he emphasized the resigned submission of the martyrs to God’s hands, in contrast with the cruel or even drastic behaviour of their captors.