On hearing the prophecy of his son's destiny to bring ruin to Troy, King Priam abandoned the infant Paris on the slopes of Mount Ida where he was subsequently discovered and brought up by shepherds. Unwittingly, Paris fulfilled the dreaded prophecy when he met and abducted the Spartan queen, Helen. When her husband Menelaus discovered the truth he mounted a massive expedition to find her, which lead to the sacking of Troy.
The present bust derives from Antonio Canova's original bust of 1810, housed in the Hermitage, St Petersburg (other versions are known in the Neue Pinakothek, Monaco, the Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen and the Nationalgalerie, Berlin, see Praz and Pavanello, loc. cit). In both the marble original and the bronze cast, the artist has delicately portrayed Paris as a masculine and heroic young man but has also instilled, in a relatively simple composition, an air of passion and nobility. It is perhaps for this sensitivity perhaps that Canova was so respected as a portrait sculptor in France, Italy and England. In his portraits of Napoleon or Paolina Borghese, for example, one can see his ability subtly to instil life into an inanimate block of marble.
Although Canova is not known to have worked in bronze, the casting techniques and treatment of the details suggest that this bust may be contemporary to the marble original and that the artist may therefore have had a direct connection to the master's workshop.