A closely related model had a legible inscription L GAHAGAN fecit & Publish'd as the Act Directs Decbr 1st 1818 (Anonymous sale, Christie's London, 21 July 1988, lot 23. Lawrence Gahagan (fl.1756-1820) specialised in small bronze portrait busts of contemporary notables. Amongst those exhibited at the Academy were Nelson, Pitt, Wellington and George IV. A bronze version of the present figure also exists. It seems likely that many of these figures would have been retailed through William Bullock's museums in Liverpool and London. Gahagan is mentioned as the sculptor of a bust of 'Master Betty in Achmet' in an advertisement placed by William Bullock in the Liverpool Chronicle in 1805 (Lucy Wood, 'George Bullock in Birmingham and Liverpool', George Bullock Exhibition Catalogue, 1988, pp. 40 - 46. He was also the sculptor of the two massive limestone Egyptian figures which originally flanked the entrance to the Egyptian Room at Bullock's Museum in Piccadilly.
Prince Fredrick Augustus, Duke of York, second son of King George III was born in 1763. In 1780, at the age of seventeen, he was made Colonel in the Royal Army, beginning his lifelong military career. At the age of 28, he dutifully married Princess Frederica, eldest daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, although they separated fairly shortly thereafter. At the time of his marriage in 1791 he was said to have had the enormous annual income of £70,000. Following the outbreak of the war with France in 1793, the Duke fought in the Flanders campaigns and became Commander-in-Chief of the Army five years later. In 1809 he was accused of corruption on account of the practices of his mistress, Mary Ann Clark, who profited from her intimacy with the Commander-in-Chief by selling promotions to officers. The scandal forced him to resign for two years, but he was reinstated in 1811. When the Duke of York died in 1827, his debts totaled somewhere between £200,000 and £500,000 - the imprecise figure being perhaps an indication of just how chaotic the Duke's financial affairs were. In order to try to satisfy these huge debts, his executors took the unprecedented step of selling a Royal collection at public auction. The Duke of York's silver was offered at Christie's in a series of sales starting on March 19th 1827. The total for the four-day sale of silver was £22,439/10s while the Duke's arms and armor collection and furniture brought in a further £15,000.
The Duke of York's sale catalogue does not mention a plaster figure of George III. However, lot 2, sold on Friday, 6 April 1827, included a small whole length Figure of Frederick II. in plaister and it is conceivable that the figure has been wrongly identified for much of the intervening period.