The attribution of the present marble to Claude David is due to striking similarities with the style, composition and scale of a marble Vulcan (or possibly Prometheus) chained to a rock by Claude David formerly owned by Sir Andrew Fountaine (1676-1753) and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. A.3-1981).
David was born in Burgundy and is therefore likely to have been trained as a sculptor in France. By the 1690s, however, he was in Italy, finishing a statue of St. Bartholomew started by Pierre Puget and carving further marbles for the church of S. Maria Assunta di Carignano in Genova. There he seems to have attracted the attention of Charles Henri, Prince de Vaudémont, who, in turn, introduced the sculptor to William III, King of England. The King promptly invited the sculptor to join him in London and for some 20 years after that David would supply statuary for some of England's foremost country houses. Other commissions include a fine monument for the Carteret family in Westminster Abbey, which is adorned with a personification of Time that resembles the present figure. Since the Earl of Macclesfield purchased his castle near Watlington in 1716 when David was in England, it is plausible that the present marble was commissioned directly from David during its refurbishments.
Polyphemus, the man-eating King of the Cyclopedes, appears throughout mythology. He crushed Acis with a boulder after courting Galatea and captured Ulysses and his men on their return from the Trojan war. The latter escaped the one-eyed giant by blinding him with a tree-trunk and escaping his cave under the cover of a sheep.
S. Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école française sous le règne de Louis XIV, Nendeln, 1970, pp. 141-142; M. Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830, 1988, p. 449, n. 15; M. Baker, Figured in marble. The making and viewing of eighteenth-century sculpture, London, 2000, pp. 28-33