The present bust of a woman, generally accepted as being the muse of comedy, Thalia, is derived from the Roman full-length seated figure of the 2nd century AD in the Museo Pio-Celementino, Vatican, and is itself a copy of a lost Greek original. The Roman marble entered the Papal collection in 1774 after being discovered, along with a series of other muses, in excavations conducted by Domenico de' Angelis at the Villa di Cassio, Tivoli, before 1773.
The figure of Thalia was certainly copied as early as 1789 when Francesco Righetti listed Les neuf Muses & Apollon du Vatican for sale (Haskell and Penny, loc. cit.) and an example of which was sold (incorrectly described as Melpomene) along with a figure of Euterpe in the Cyril Humphris sale (Sotheby's, New York, 10-11th January 1995, lot 142).
A marble bust of Thalia was carved by Luigi Amici (1813-1897), a pupil of Antonio Canova's, and is currently on display at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Penny, loc. cit.). Although virtually identical to the present lot, the Ashmoleon bust bust varies slightly in that it is less finely carved, is truncated higher up the torso, thus cutting the ribbon and bow in half, and lacks the bridge supports between the vines and the hair. The more refined quality of the bust offered here recalls the style and sensitivity of carving seen in the works of English sculptors working in Rome such as Jospeh Gott (1786-1860) and John Gibson (1790-1866) who were both working permanently in Rome from 1822 onwards. The present bust is likely to have been executed in the decades around 1830, when many Anglo-Roman sculptors were fervently producing antique-style sculpture to cater for the tastes of the ravenous English grand tourists.