This overmantel mirror and painting comes from the collection of the Earls of Haddington at Tyninghame, East Lothian. The painting is likely to have been purchased directly from the artist, Solimena, in Naples, as records show that both Lord Binning (heir to the 6th Earl of Haddington), his wife and mother-in-law, the redoubtable Lady Grisell Baillie, visited Naples twice between 1731 and 1733. Lord Binning had primarily gone to Naples to take advantage of the better climate for his consumption. However, he sadly died at the end of 1732, surrounded by his family (see B. Ford & J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, New Haven and London, 1997, pp. 40-42). Lady Grisell's somewhat meticulous records show the procurement in Naples of '4 picturs [sic] to George' (for a very low sum of 8 shillings) as well as various tutorial services (in language and music) and a substantial purchase of Italian marble and food items which were shipped to Tyninghame (R. Scott-Moncrieff (ed.), The Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie 1692-1733, Edinburgh, 1911, p. XLIII, 365). Lord Binning's two sons, Thomas, later 7th Earl of Haddington (1720-1794) and George (who succeeded to the Baillie estates) (1723-1797) both revisited Italy in 1740 on the Grand Tour, again orchestrated by their grandmother, Lady Grisell.
Francesco Solimena dominated Neapolitan painting in the first half of the 18th century and won admiration for his art throughout the courts of Europe. Influenced early in his career by Luca Giordano and Mattia Preti, he developed a highly personal and dramatic style in the handling of light and shade. As a result of a probable visit to Rome in 1701, Solimena's art began to move towards a more classical style in the early part of the 18th century.
The overmantel is flanked by profile nymph herms, each with a pearl necklace. Similar herm figures appear on a chimneypiece, circa 1729, in the old House of Lords, Dublin, possibly carved by John Houghton while female figures appear in a design for a chimneypiece attributed to John Aheron, circa 1740. William Kent designed an overmantel frame flanked by basket-bearing nymphs that was published by Isaac Ware in Designs of Inigo Jones and others, 1731 (pl. 39) and similar profile herms appear on a Kentian mirror that was sold from 22 Arlington Street, Christie's, London, 11 May 2005, lot 10.