On 27 October 1480 several Florentine painters left for Rome, where they had been called as part of the reconciliation project between Lorenzo de' Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence, and Pope Sixtus IV. The Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481, along with Pietro Perugino, who was already there.
The theme of the decoration was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, as a sign of continuity between the Old and the New Testament. A continuity also between the divine law of the Tables and the message of Jesus, who, in turn, chose Peter (the first alleged bishop of Rome) as his successor: this would finally result in a legitimation of the latter's successors, the popes of Rome.
Among the several fresco in the cycle, that of the Passage of the Red Sea was the one with the most problematic attribution. Although the name of Ghirlandaio was made by several authorities, the work's style is more reminiscent of that of Cosimo Rosselli or Biagio d'Antonio.