A French general and statesman, Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia (1769-1851) rose to great fame in the Napoleonic era, most notably commanding the right wing of the army at the battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805) after which Napoleon dubbed him “le premier manoeuvrier de l’Europe”, or the greatest maneuverer of Europe.
However, following Napoleon's exile to Elba, Soult alleged various allegiances, declaring himself a Royalist in 1814, a Bonapartist in 1815, a supporter of Louis Philippe in 1830, and ultimately died a Republican in 1851. During this period he served as the 12th, 19th, and 21st Prime Minister of France.
There are only two known marble busts of Maréchal Soult by the great French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The first was created for the salle des Maréchaux in the Palais des Tuileries and was displayed among other portrait busts of France's leading marshals, generals and navy men. However the bust disappeared in 1871 following the great fire at the Tuileries. The second bust was given to Soult's family, and is mostly likely the present sculpture. This second bust is recorded to be dated 1812, while our bust is dated 1813. However, the pen inscription to the reverse indicates that the bust descended from the family of Count Pierre de Mornay Soult de Dalmatie, Marquis de Mornay Montchevreuil (1837-1905), who was the grandson of Maréchal Soult via Soult's daughter, Joséphine Louise Hortense Soult de Dalmatie (1804-1862).