Jean Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875) was born in Valenciennes, the son of a stone-mason. He came to Paris in 1842 and spent two years working in a drawing school before being admitted to the cole des Beaux Arts, studying under Rude from 1844 to 1850. His style was strictly classical and he won the Prix de Rome (1856) with his statue of Hector bearing in his arms his son Astyanax. In Rome, however, he moved away from the constraints of pure classicism and began to study the works of Donatello and Michelangelo, the latter in particular having a strong influence on his subsequent career.
His group of Ugolino and his Sons which he sent to the Salon in 1863 immediately established his reputation as the leading Romantic sculptor in France. He undertook many State commissions for public statuary, as well as fulfilling a large private demand for his portraiture. Realism dominated his work, in the attention to anatomical detail in his genre figures, and in the photographic likenesses of his busts of the aristocracy and celebrities in the last years of the Second Empire. At times this acute realism was controversial, perhaps most in The Dance (1869), one of the four groups for the faade of the new Opera House, Paris, where the nudity of the hermaphroditic figure caused some consternation.
Conceived in the early 1860s, the present work is a revised version of Carpeaux's earlier and highly successful 'Jeune Fille la Coquille' and a pendant to 'Le Rieur Napolitain'. The present model was executed in marble and also edited by the Susse Frres foundry in bronze in various sizes. The model for this bust, in addition to many other of Carpeaux's works executed in the 1860s, was Anna Foucart, the younger daughter of a Valenciennes lawyer who was Carpeaux's friend and patron. Here she is depicted wearing the traditional folk-costume of Naples.
A similar figure was offered in Christie's New York, 24 October 1990, lot 148.
A similar figure is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Les Bronzes du XIX Sicle, 1987, p. 179.