The death of Pope Leo X resulted in many papal mercenaries defecting to the French. For this reason, the French seized the opportunity to attack Pavia where Federico II Gonzaga and the remainder of the papal army had entrenched themselves. Despite heavy fighting the French were not able to take the city. This success brought the young Federico much recognition and glory. Tintoretto stages the battle like a theatrical performance. The tent on the right-hand edge of the picture frames the view of events like a curtain.