The bronze group offered here is a reduced copy of the colossal Farnese Bull, today in the Museo Nazionale, Naples. Also known as the Fable of Dirce, the group was excavated in the Baths of Caracalla in 1545 and was moved to the Palazzo Farnese immediately after.
The 1568 Farnese inventory refers to it as the mountain with the Bull, and four statues around it (Haskell and Penny, loc. cit.). Aldrovandi and Vasari interpreted it as one of Hercules' Labours, but after its restoration in line with Pliny's account of the group by Apollonius and Tauriscus of Rhodes, it was agreed that it represented the story of Dirce. The tragic scene depicts Dirce who, as punishment for her bad treatment of her niece Antiope - who succeeded Dirce as wife of Licus King of Thebes, was tied to a wild bull by Antiope's sons Letus and Amphion.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the group was praised enthusiastically by the most sophisticated connoisseurs, as being, along with the Laocoon, 'the most remarkable and marvellous work of the chisel of the ancients, showing what the art of sculpture can achieve at its most excellent' (ibid, p. 165). Among the most famous reduced-scale reproductions were those by Antonio Susini in 1613, which was in the Villa Borghese by 1625 (Giambologna, loc. cit.) and Adrien de Vries in 1614, in the Schlossmuseum, Gotha (Berlin, loc. cit.). It was, unsurprisingly, also copied in reduced scale, at a much later date, and offered for sale by industrious Romans such as Francesco Righetti who was retailing it for 180 sequins (Haskell and Penny, op. cit.. p. 343).