This impressive bust is compositionally close to the marble monument to Cornwallis in the east quadrangle of the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, which was designed by John Bacon I (1740-99) and executed by his son John Bacon II (1777-1759) in 1803. As in the monument, Cornwallis is presented in the guise of a Classical hero, with his proud facial expression, and military cuirass obscured by a great swathe of drapery tied together with a prominent fibula. There is a near-identical bust of Cornwallis by Bacon at Squerryes Court, Kent, in which the general wears a wig; this bust is also thought to come from the Cornwallis family, through his niece Charlotte Madan. The absence of a wig in the present portrait lends to the bust an air of informality, whilst associating the figure more firmly with the classical past. Bacon also created a statue of Cornwallis in 1810, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811 and is now in the Dr Bhau Daji lad Museum, Mumbai. A now lost bust of Cornwallis was also exhibited by the sculptor's father at the Royal Academy in 1798.
Charles Cornwallis was famously the British general who surrendured to American and French forces at Yorktown in October 1781, thereby effectively drawing the American War of Independence to a close. Despite this defeat, he went on to carve out a prominent career for himself as a colonial administrator, becoming Governor General of India in 1786 and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1798. He was created Marquess Cornwallis in 1792.
A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A complete dictionary of contributors 1769-1904, 1905, I, p. 88; R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, London, 1968, pp. 28-31; J. Bryant, 'John Bacon the Younger', J. Turner (ed.), The dictionary of art, London, 1996