John Gibson (1790-1866), originally British, lived primarily in Rome and was one of the most prominent figures of the Anglo-Roman neo-classical school. In the 1850s, Gibson took on the American sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who coined the famous phrase about Gibson, 'he is a god in his studio but God help him out of it.'
Over the course of his life and after his death, a number of portrait busts and medallions of Gibson were executed by his colleagues and admirers. There is a portrait roundel by Gibson's student Harriet Hosmer, currently in the National Portrait Gallery, which is almost identical to the present roundel and the portrait roundel on Gibson's grave stele in Rome, thus suggesting that this roundel is also by her. The hand-written label on the back of the present roundel suggests in fact that it was done by Benjamin Edward Spence, however it is likely that this is an erroneous postscript.