Stuart was working for Lord Harcourt at Nuneham Park circa 1760-4. The chimney-piece in the dining-room is still in situ, although the decoration of the room was altered by Henry Holland in the 1780s (see G. Worsley, 'Nuneham Park Revisited', Country Life, 3. Jan. 1985, pp. 16-19 and pls. 8 and 9)
This chimney-piece is designed in the antique or neo-classical fashion introduced in the 1750s by the Rome-trained artist/architect and protégé of the Society of Dilettanti, James Stuart (d.1788), whose co-authorship with Nicholas Revett of The Antiquities of Athens, 1762 popularised Grecian architecture and earned him the name of James 'Athenian' Stuart.
Its frieze derived from a Grecian temple illustrated in Stuart's, Antiquities, evokes ancient festivities and sacrifices at love's altar. A garlanded sacred urn accompanies trophies recalling harvests at times of peace and plenty, and the Roman adage: 'Sine Cerere et Baccho, friget Venus'. Here the summer deity Ceres' sunflowered and pearl-wreathed libation paterae accompany Love's corn-wreathed torches and vine-wreathed bacchic thyrsae. The mantel's dentillated and cone-finialed cornice is supported by voluted-trusses, whose hermed and fluted pilasters recall Roman tripod altars with the display of the heads and monopodiae of lions that were associated with the deities' triumphal festivities.
The present drawing, evolved from one proposed in the late 1750s for Wimbledon Park, Surrey, was for a chimney-piece executed in the early 1760s for a founder member of the Society of Dilettanti, Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt (d.1777), and installed in his dining room at Nuneham Park, Oxfordshire (D. Watkin, Athenian Stuart, London, 1982, figs. 40 and 16).