This work was likely once a part of the series of head studies by various Venetian painters that was housed in the Visconti di Modrone Castle at Somma Lombardo (Varese). A portion of this collection is still preserved there; however, the rest was dispersed around the turn of the last century and can be difficult to trace. Featuring works by artists as varied as Sebastiano Ricci, Antonio Pellegrini, Giambattista Piazzetta and Giambattista Tiepolo among others, the collection was united by its subject matter. Each work depicts a bust-length figure -- some male, some female, some young, some old -- in different poses and psychological states. In addition to their shared subject matter, the works in the collection are united by their size; much like the present work, they all measure roughly 47 by 39 cm. A recent exhibition (Venice, Galleria di Palazzo Cini a San Vio, Teste di fantasia del settecento veneziano, 9 September - 22 October 2006) highlighted the collection and the broad scope of Venetian art that it represents.
We are grateful to the late Professor Lino Moretti both for suggesting that this work could once have been a part of the Visconti collection, and for attributing this work to Domenico Maggiotto on the basis of photographs.