An English, Regency period, neoclassical fireplace in statuary marble, carved in Italy, circa 1820. The herm jambs with well carved busts of the Vestal Virgins, the attendants of the temple of Vesta, the Roman goddess of fire in the Roman forum. It was their duty to keep the fires perpetually burning, which is a pleasing connotation for chimneypiece design.
The rectangular moulded, tiered shelf sits above the frieze with a central plaque with a head of Medusa. She is robustly carved with glaring eyes and snakes entwined in her hair and flanked by panels carved with acanthus leaves. The herm jambs with tapering shafts of inverted obelisk shape decorated with scrolled hearts and anthemion, capped with blockings of sunflowers, the whole standing on foot blocks.
An almost identical fireplace, one of a pair and with slightly different blockings, but almost certainly by the same workshop, was illustrated by the London antique dealers, Pratt & Burgess in The Connoisseur, November 1960, with provenance of 83 Portland Place, London.
Height 52 1/4 in (132.5cm) width 71 3/4 in (182.2cm)
Internal height 41 in (104cm) width 52 in (132cm)
Footblock to footblock 73 3/4 in (187.5cm)
Shelf depth 11 in (28cm)