Born in the small village of Otavice in the Dalmatian hinterland, Ivan Mestrovic went on to become a modern sculptor of International acclaim - lauded by Rodin as "the greatest phenomenon amongst the sculptors". Early talent was nurtured under the stewardship of the stone-cutter Pavle Bilinic of Split who took on Mestrovic as his apprentice in 1899. In time, Mestrovic moved to Vienna where he received patronage from a wealthy mine-owning family and began exhibiting with the Vienna Secession Group in 1905. By 1915, he became the first living artist to have a one-man exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
In 1908 he moved to Paris, and from there to Belgrade, followed by Rome where he won the grand prix for the Serbian Pavilion in the 1911 International Exhibition. His first visit to the United States of America came in 1924 when he exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Brooklyn - a show which went on tour to several major American cities. It is likely that the current busts date to around 1930, when another known purchase was made by Annie, 1st Viscountess Cowdray of Mestrovic's work. Lady Cowdray may have been introduced to Mestroviby John Singer Sargent who painted the former's portrait in 1906, though her interest in contemporary artists was strong and she may well have been acquainted with his work by other means.
Other examples of Mestrovic's sculpture can be found at Parham, Sussex, once home to The Hon. Clive Pearson, second son of Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray and Annie, 1st Viscountess Cowdray.