This beautifully carved bust combines an 18th century head set into genuine antique Roman shoulders of egyptian alabaster. The 'restored' elements of the neck, lip and ears were almost certainly executed at the time the head was carved in order to make it resemble a restored antiquity. Sculptors such as Bartolomeo Cavaceppi are known to have produced such items for the buoyant trade in antique works of art purchased by Europeans on the Grand Tour, as well restoring authentic Roman items.
Although unconfirmed by documentary evidence, there are two possible sources for the purchase of the present lot. The first is James Hamilton, 8th Earl of Abercorn (1712-1789), who is known to have done the Grand Tour when still styled Lord Paisley (see J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 732). He was in Rome by 8 January 1739 and travelled from Bologna to Florence in September of the same year. A cousin of the diplomat and connoiseur Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), it is also possible that the bust was acquired through the latter when Abercorn set about building a new neo-classical home on his Irish estate, Baronscourt, between 1779 and 1782. If not a purchase made by the 8th Earl, the other possible candidate is James Hamilton (1811-1885), created Duke of Abercorn, who remodelled Baronscourt in the 1830s and was also known to be a voracious collector of antique sculpture, paintings and bronzes.