The exquisitely modeled, cast and chased female busts that head the supports of this magnifcent console table, are decorated with a medallion necklace featuring the portrait of Socrates. This distinctive feature can also be found on a virtually identical bronze portrait bust surmounting an Empire mantel clock. That clock was sold as part of the contents of the Villa Demidoff, on the orders of H.R.H. Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, at Sotheby’s, London, 22nd April 1964, lot 226. Thought to have been acquired by Jérome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, the clock was a gift to his daughter princess Mathilde, who was married to Anatole Demidoff, 1st Prince of San Donato. A virtual pair to that clock is surmounted instead by the bust of Elisa Bacciochi, the sister of Napoléon I. Modeled by Jacques Edme Dumont (1761-844) after a portrait sculpture by Joseph Chinard (1756-1813) the clock was a present by Elisa to Empress Marie-Louise on her marriage to Napoleon I in 1810 (ill. P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de La Pendule Française, Paris, 1997, p. 414, fg. C.). The attribution of the bronze bust on the present console to Dumont is further supported by the close resemblance to the head of the maiden found on his terracotta model for a fountain (now in the Louvre, Paris, R.F. 4240).
While it has not yet been possible to fnd this console in the inventories and sale catalogues documenting the Demidoff collection, the spectacular overall scale, the superb quality of cast and chasing and indeed the rarity of this specifc portrait bust do support the thesis that the console must have been a commission for a member of Bonaparte’s Family and – similar to the Demidoff clock mentioned above – is likely to have been in the collection of either Jérome, or his sister Élisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, before passing into the collection of Marie-Clotilde of Savoy, wife of Prince Jérome Napoléon Bonaparte, brother of Princess Mathilde, and grandson of Jérome, King of Westphalia.
This remarkable provenance was further added to in the mid-20th century, when the console entered the collection of the renowned soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977).