The richly sculpted chimneypiece with its Grecian palm-capped vestals displays a bas-relief entablature inspired by the 'Romance of Alexander' and celebrates the Macedonian hero, Alexander the Great, and his defeat of the Persian monarch Darius at the battle of Issus in 333. Though Darius fled, his mother, wife and two daughters were captured by Alexander who treated them with honour and kindness.
The Mount Street sculptor modeller B. F. Hardenberg (d. 1832), whose studio was near that of the Rome-trained sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott R.A. (d. 1856), executed related elaborately draped vestals in 1800 to serve as lamp-bearers ('Country House Lighting', Temple Newsam Country House Studies, 1992, p. 144, fig. 118 and T. Clifford, 'The Plaster Shops of the Rococo and Neo-Classical Era in Britain', Journal of the History of Collections 4, no. 1, 1992, pp. 39-65).
A related chimneypiece at Tregothnan, Cornwall has also been attributed to Sir Richard Westmacott (C. Hussey, Late Georgian: English Country Houses, London, 1958, p. 147, fig. 273). Westmacott also supplied a chimneypiece, with long classical frieze of Apollo and the Muses flanked by a Greek flute-playing shepherd and dancing-girl, to Lord Courtenay for the Music Room at Powderham Castle, Devon (M. Girouard, 'Powderham Castle, Devon - III', Country Life, p. 141, fig. 5).
There is a tradition that the 3rd Lord Holland (d. 1840), a noted admirer of Napoleon, commissioned Westmacott to made a reduced copy of a Canova chimneypiece in Rome which diplayed the family of Darius before Alexander. Westmacott, a pupil of Canova, was on friendly terms with the Hollands and executed the statue of Charles James Fox for Westminster Abbey in 1822, while Canova dined with them at Holland House during his visit to London in November 1815 (The Earl of Ilchester, The Home of the Hollands 1605-1820, London, 1937, p. 302).