Plate V, "The Pencil of Nature", part 1, 24 June 1844
Created: 9 Aug 1842
Object Type: Salted Paper Print
Mount: ruled edge mount
Inscription: date inscribed in the negative; 5 in ink on mount, bottom right, recto
Provenance: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Jean Horblit, in memory of Harrison D. Horblit, 1994 Harrison D. Horblit, Ridgefield, Connecticut Christie's South Kensington, London sale October 1984 Constance Stewart (1863-1944) Matilda Talbot (later Gilchrist Clark, 1839-1927)
This bust is one of the objects most photographed by Talbot and is a plaster copy of a marble bust which was excavated by the Scottish artist and archaeologist, Gavin Hamilton (1730-1798). The original marble, found at Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli in 1769, was later acquired by the British Museum in 1805, where at the time of writing it is on display (museum number 1805,0703.86 / Gallery 22).
Although the subject of the bust is not known for certain, many attempts or guesses have been made since its discovery, none of which have been proven for certain. Hence the generic descriptive title, “Head of a Homeric Hero: marble bearded head of a companion of Ulysses, probably from a group showing Ulysses and companions blinding Polyphemus”.
It is thought that the marble version of the bust dates from about 100-150 BC, and is itself thought to be a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original dating from of about 200 BC. Talbot’s plaster version is therefore part of a long line of copies. Alternatively, it could be seen as having an impressive pedigree.