This colossal bust of the conqueror of Europe remained in Canova's bedroom in his Rome house until his death in 1822. Afterwards, it was purchased by the 6th Duke of Devonshire's friend, Anne, Marchioness of Abercorn (died 1827), who left it in her will to the Duke.

The Duke considered that this bust was the only authentic one of Napoleon carved by Canova himself. It was made from his model for the colossal full-length nude statue of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker (1803–1806) commissioned, but later rejected, by Napoleon. The statue is now in Apsley House, the London home of the Duke of Wellington.

The 6th Duke placed this bust in the centre of the Sculpture Gallery at Chatsworth, facing a bust of the great conqueror from Antiquity, Alexander the Great.

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