This over-life-size porphyry head once sat in the entrance hall to Hungersall Lodge, the home of Rupert Gunnis, collector, antiquarian and author of Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 (illustrated in situ in Knox, op. cit., fig. 3). By tradition, he had found it abandoned in the chicken run of a ducal estate, and managed to acquire it for his own collection.
The head was almost certainly carved to fit into large shoulders executed in marble or bronze, and the relative scale required for such a large head - along with the use of porphyry - suggests that it was an important commission. With its distinctive, aquiline nose, shallow-set eyes and slightly protruding lower lip, it appears to represent William III of England. Certainly this was who Gunnis himself believed the head was meant to represent.
With his short hair, it is likely that the bust is a posthumous portrait of the king, who died in 1702. However, as joint monarch - with his cousin Mary - William represented the victory of a protestant succession over the catholic Stuarts, and thus continued to be a potent symbol in Hanoverian England. As a comparison, one can cite the bust of William executed in around 1736 by Michael Rysbrack (illustrated in Bristol, op. cit., fig. 12) which also depicts the monarch with short curling hair and wearing a laurel wreath. The element which makes the present head such a rarity is the fact that it is executed in porphyry, and on such a grand scale. Incredibly difficult to carve due to its hardness, porphyry is traditionally associated with emperors. Its use is virtually unheard of in the English tradition of portraiture, however it is possible that it was chosen on this occasion to emphasise the status of a man whose claim to the English throne was considered by many to be tenuous at best.