The bust shows Charles of Bourbon who, by this stage, is already King of Spain, since it is dated 1764. He had taken the throne on the death of his brother, Fernando VI, in 1759. Charles, son of Philip V of Bourbon and Isabel of Farnesio of the Ducal House of Parma, had been born in Madrid on January 20th, 1716.
The portrait, by sculptor and academician Pascual de Mena, one of the outstanding figures in 18th century sculpture, must have been planned as an official portrait of the monarch, as there was already an original plaster model dated the same year, 1764. This indicates that it had been created with the idea of making as many replicas as were deemed necessary. Indeed, other similar versions now exist, although from a later date, at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine arts and the Bank of Spain.
Reproducing portraits of monarchs in sculpture, like portrait painting itself, had a great tradition, but in the 18th century it was given fresh impetus in Spain by the decorative needs created by the building and renovation of new palaces and “royal sites”. The characteristics of this type of work were moreover moulded by former types in the genre which, in turn, drew their inspiration from the portrait sculptures of the Roman emperors of Antiquity. In this bust of Charles III, the King appears wrapped in a cloak of loose and decorative folds, on which the artist has sculpted the emblematic symbols of the Spanish Crown, the lion and the tower of the ancient kingdoms of Castile and Leon. Despite the hard surface of the marble, the sculptor carved the King’s lace collar realistically and in detail, conveying the hardness and smoothness of the armour and the silky effects of the sashes of the Orders of St. Jenaro and Charles III, as well as the collar and insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece.