Sculptor Peter Turnerelli was born in Belfast, the son of Iacomo [James] Turnerelli. His grandfather was a refugee whose surname was Tognarelli and who had held an estate at Como. James Turnerelli worked as a sculptor in Belfast and Dublin, changing his name from Tognarelli and marrying an Irish woman.
On the death of his mother in 1792, the family moved to London and young Peter entered the Royal Academy Schools in October 1794 and visited Rome in 1796. Back in London, he established a practice as a sculptor of portrait busts. He made his debut at the Royal Academy in 1802 when he exhibited a bust of Princess Charlotte, which established his reputation. In 1814 he was appointed sculptor to Queen Charlotte.
Living in Newman Street, he received notable commissions: Louis XVIII sat for his portrait in the Palais des Tuileries; Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia commissioned a bust of Prince Blücher; Alexander I of Russia visited his studio and ordered replicas of various busts for the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Turnerelli maintained close links with Ireland. His bust of politician Daniel O’Connell was a ‘best seller’. In spite of his success he died (at home) intestate in March 1839, and his house in Newman Street and the contents of his studio were auctioned.