Pietro Calvi was an eminent ethnographic sculptor whose work reflected a fascination with the Orient. His harmonious integration of materials recalls the work of the distinguished French 19th-century ethnographic sculptor Charles Cordier, but rather than treating his subjects with scientific precision, Calvi saw the dramatic potential of his North African sitters. The present bust relates closely to Calvi's larger half-figure of Othello, which was one of the first in which he combined bronze and marble.
Pietro Calvi was born in Milan in 1833 and studied at the Milan Academy and later under the sculptor Giovanni Seleroni. Often taking subjects from the arts including many Shakespearian characters, Calvi also made figures which now decorate Milan Cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
Alfonso Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario delgi scultori Italiani dell’ottocento e del primo novecento, Milan, 1990, vol. 1, p. 193