This superb bronze portrait bust was catalogued as Flemish when it was sold in 1910 and again in 1986, at which time it was related to the sculptures of Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621). The facture of the present bronze, which has been skilfully modelled in wax, thus requiring very little chasing after casting, would nonetheless suggest an Italian origin. The sculptor's veristic approach to representing his sitter is comparable with mid- to late- 16th-century Venetian portrait busts, particularly those by Danese Cattaneo (c. 1509-1572) and Alessandro Vittoria (c. 1525-1608). Note, for example, Cattaneo's Portrait Bust of a Venetian Gentleman in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. no. 1995.11). Many of Cattaneo's busts share with the present bust the prominent eyebrows and the almost frowning expression. The all'antica drapes find a parallel in a bust by Cattaneo in the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista, Venice (de Angelis, op. cit. fig. 37). The striking realism of the present bust, is particularly close to the work of Alessandro Vittoria; compare with Vittoria's bust of Ottavio Grimani in the Bode Museum, and, also his bust of Palma il Giovane from the Dirkens collection, Berlin (Planiscig, op. cit. pp. 483 and 509, figs. 512 and 550).
Given that the present bust has no original structural support and the fact that there are holes in the back of the shoulders, it is likely that it was mounted into a niche within a larger monument, probably a tomb. The plain, classicising cloak, which is draped across the shoulders, would indicate that the sitter was a scholar or cleric.
L. Planiscig, Venezianische Bildhauer der Renaissance, Vienna, 1921, pp. 483 and 509; A. Bacchu (ed.), La scultura a Venezia da Sansovino a Canova, Milan, 2000, pls. 60, 72, 183-199; A. de Angelis, 'Danese Cattaneo's portrait bust of Girolamo Giganti*', Burlington Magazine, 1185 CXLIII, December 2001, pp. 747-752; A. P. Darr, 'A Pair of Large Bronze Deities in Detroit: New Research and an Attribution to Danese Cattaneo', P. Motture (ed.), Large Bronzes in the Renaissance, New Haven, 2003, pp. 215-239