This Perseus, purchased by Countess Valeria Tarnowska of Poland, is a replica of Canova's famed marble of Perseus in the Vatican, conceived about 1790 and first shown in 1801. Based freely on the Apollo Belvedere, which had been carried off to Paris under Napoleon, it was bought by Pope Pius VII and placed upon the pedestal where the Apollo had formerly stood. In the Museum's version, Canova has refined the ornamental details and aimed for a more lyrical effect than in the Vatican Perseus, a stylistic streamlining characteristic of his artistic process. Medusa's head is based on that of the antique Rondanini Medusa.
Comissioned by Count Jan and Countess Valeria Tarnowski (1804/6–49) ; by descent, the heirs of Count Jan and Countess Valeria Tarnowski (1849–before 1871; sold to Wawra) ; [ C.J. Wawra , Vienna (until 1871) ] ; Freiherr Carl von Schwarz , Vienna (after 1871) ; descended in the family of Freiherr Carl von Schwarz , Vienna (until 1967; sold through Piero Tozzi, New York to MMA)