The bust of King Frederik V is a typical representative portrait of a ruler. The head is held proudly erect and slightly turned. The Order of the Elephant serves to indicate the sitter’s particularly high rank, while the armour signifies his position as the official head of the military. The cut-off point of the bust is hidden by the loosely draped cloak, the edge of which reaches the bottom edge of the base.
In connection with the plans to erect an equestrian statue of Frederik V in the Amalienborg Square, the donors, i.e. the Asiatic Company as headed by A.G. Moltke, approached the famous French sculptor Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762). The project aimed for maximum prestige, and the Danish patrons wanted the very best within European sculpture to further the glory of both Company and king. However, Bouchardon was compelled to refuse because he was busily at work on an equestrian statue of Louis XV in Paris; that statue is now lost. He recommended his younger colleague Saly (1717-76) instead.Saly accepted the commission, and this bust of Frederik V can be regarded as a preliminary study for the equestrian monument.
After his arrival in Denmark in 1753 Saly was assigned a dwelling at the newly established Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at Charlottenborg. In 1754 he became the Academy’s director and introduced a number of new statutes and changes to a new charter of 1758; all these changes were inspired by the French academy. Thus, Saly very directly helped create the basis for what would be the Golden Age of Danish art.