Timothy Langston of London and Petworth offers an alabaster bust of Napoleon as king of Italy under the ‘exceptional discoveries’ section of his website.
Unlike most French busts, which show the emperor crowned with a laurel wreath, he is depicted here wearing the historic Iron Crown of Lombardy from the 9th century. The headpiece is named for the band of iron within it, said to be beaten out of one of the nails used in the Crucifixion.
At his coronation in Milan, Napoleon placed it on his head and exclaimed: “God gives it to me, beware whoever touches it.”
Works commemorating Napoleon’s rule in Italy are scarcer than those created from his time in France, where he was a far more popular and enduring figure. However, this bust is probably from the studio of Italian sculptor Giovanni Battista Comolli (1775-1831). He was a great supporter of the emperor, who appears repeatedly in the artist’s works throughout his life.
The bust has been extensively researched by the gallery’s painting specialist Miles Barton and is available for a price in the region of £25,000.