The lions are modelled after the pair executed by Canova between 1783 and 1792 which sit at the base of the monument to Clement XIII in St. Peter's, Rome.
William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858) was one of the foremost early 19th century sculpture collectors in England. In 1823, he ordered life size copies of the Canova lions which were placed in the sculpture gallery at Chatsworth in 1833. His great-grandson, the 9th Duke, had them moved to outside the Orangery during the early 20th century, where they continue to reside today. They are illustrated in J. Davis, Antique Garden Ornament, London, 1991, p.229, pl. 5:6 and 5:7.