Statue 55 is part of an immense collection of antique art gathered together in the later 18th century through the auspices of Charles Wyndham, second Earl of Egremont (1710–63). Most of the Earl's exhibits came direct from source, via agents in Rome, such as the painter Gavin Hamilton (Jackson-Stops 1978, 69), and Matthew Brettingham the younger, dealer in antiquities (Michaelis 1882, 71-3; Scott 2003, 124-5). Hamilton obtained material from a variety of sources including his own excavations in and around Rome, while Brettingham preferred to purchase individual pieces from fellow wealthy collectors 'and other dilettanti' (Michaelis 1882, 72). It was Brettingham who was ultimately responsible for transporting artwork back to Britain and arranging the accumulated collection at Petworth House (Jackson-Stops 1978, 23; Scott 2003, 123-9).
By the early 1760s the Egremont collection at Petworth was, with the exception of the so-called Arundel Marbles gathered together in Oxford, 'the most extensive aggregate of antique sculptures in the whole country' (Michaelis 1882, 73). Unfortunately, few of the antiquities gathered by Brettingham and Hamilton possessed anything like a secure provenance beyond the vaguest of attributions. Statue 6, a 'young fawn' is, for example, recorded as simply having derived from an excavation that Hamilton conducted 'in the Campagna' in 1761 (Michaelis 1882, 80; Raeder 2000, 55), while Statue 6, of Apollo, 'had long before stood in the Vettori palace at Rome' (Michaelis 1882, 72).
Contextual vagueness is also unfortunately evident with regard to Statue 55, of which nothing is known concerning the circumstances of discovery. The only record for the work, in the Dispersements for the Earl of Egremont by Matthew Brettingham junior, cites provenance simply as 'Italy, 1763' (Raeder 2000, 203). It is not recorded whether head and body were found together at this time nor even if they were derived from the same general area of excavation.
As a find acquired in 1763, Statue 55 was almost certainly one of the last acquisitions made on behalf of Charles Wyndham, the second Earl of Egremont, who died in August of that year. After his death, many of the second Earl's later purchases appear to have stayed in their Italian packing cases for some considerable time at Petworth following their lengthy transportation from Italy, the Earl's son and heir, George, being only 12 years old at the time of his inheritance (Michaelis 1882, 73; Scott 2003, 128).
With the passing of the second Earl, the quantity of classical Italian antiquities purchased by the Petworth estate decreased significantly, although new pieces were occasionally acquired for the collection (Vermeule 1977, 340). The main consideration for those on the estate, George the third Earl included, seems to have been precisely what to do with the extensive sculptural archive. The second Earl, in converting an open arcade at the northern end of Petworth House, had created a gallery in which he could show many of his prized sculptures (Jackson-Stops 1978, 22; Scott 2003, 124-6). This space was enlarged, between 1824 and 1827, by the third Earl in order that both classical and contemporary artworks, which he particularly favoured, could be displayed side by side (Garnett and Owen 2006, 16).
Unfortunately, few of the works collected by the second Earl were complete, the majority having been damaged or mutilated in antiquity, or, in a few cases, possibly during their recovery and transportation. Once back in England, therefore, an extensive programme of restoration commenced in order that the pieces could be adequately and properly displayed. In fact so extensive was the programme of works that Michaelis noted that many within the local area of Petworth jokingly referred to the house as a 'hospital for decayed statues' (Michaelis 1882, 73). It is not known precisely when all the restorations were undertaken, nor by whom, but Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, an Italian sculptor and art dealer, recognised as the most important, prominent and active restorer of classical sculpture in the later 18th century (Fejfer 1997, 2; Bignamini and Hornsby 2010, 252-3), is known to have 'completed' a number of the Petworth marbles for the second Earl: 'in some cases ancient heads were fitted to ancient bodies, or ancient busts to portrait heads; otherwise, new heads, limbs and busts were made to fit' (Jackson-Stops 1978, 23).
Cavaceppi's philosophy towards the restoration of damaged pieces of classical art is well documented, his rules on sensitive restoration being set down across a three-volume thesis Raccolta d'antiche statue busti bassrilievi ed altre sculture ristaurate, published between 1768 and 72 (Fejfer 1997, 2). In this, the sculptor emphasised the importance, not just of 'capturing the style of the original' in any new work but, more importantly, of clearly indicating where ancient survival and modern addition met by ensuring that all joints remained irregular (Fejfer 1997, 2-3). Such an approach can be seen in the statuary at Petworth, further suggesting that it was indeed Cavaceppi, or one of his students, who oversaw the completion of sculpture here prior to formal display.