Emilio Zocchi (1835-1913) studied under Torrini and Costalli in Florence. He sculpted busts, bas-reliefs and statuettes of Mythological, Classical and Renaissance figures. This lot is similar in composition to his well-known marble of the young Michelangelo sculpting, an example of which sold Christie's, London, 26 October 2000, lot 108 (£41,125). Another version is now in the Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
The subject here is a young typesetter seated on a stack of books. Zocchi also sculpted marbles of American historical figures as children, such as Benjamin Franklin, and it is possible that the subject here is the young Mark Twain. In March 1847, when Twain was 11, his father died of pneumonia. The next year, he became a printer's apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his brother Orion. As becoming of the future author, fittingly the boy's brow is furrowed in concentration as if he is more engrossed in reading the book than in copying it.