This fireplace is quite exceptional and unique. Realized in the second half of the 19th century, this mantel is made out of Red Griotte marble. The jambs of the fireplace are adorned with caryatids (See caryatid ) made out of gilt bronze . The two women, bare chest, support fleshy flower garlands.
The center of the frieze is decorated with a wide foliaged shell made of gilt bronze.
The sides of this fireplace are slightly curved and paneled.
This comptuous fireplace comes with its original cast iron which is ornated with the coat of arms of Francis Ingram-Seymour-Conway, Marquess of Hertford : Sable, on a bend cotised argent a rose gules between two annulets of the first (Conway); quartering: Quarterly, 1st and 4th: Or, on a pile gules between six fleurs-de-lys azure three lions of England (special grant to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Hertford (d.1552)); 2nd and 3rd: Gules, two wings conjoined in lure or (Seymour). The coat of arms is surrounded by the Emblem of the Order of the Garter : "Honi soit qui mal y pense".
Francis Ingram-Seymour-Conway (1743-1822) was a british politician in the Tory party, and Peer of the Realm, under the reigns of kings George III and George IV. Second Marquess of Hetford, son of Francis Seymour-Conway, he began his career in the Irish House of Commons, and was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1765 to 1766, when his father was his hierarchical superior. After this short function, he entered the British House of Commons in 1766. In the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party (1773), he declared himself opposed « to cede the mother country's right of taxing colonies ». He was supportive of religious tolerance, and a warm defendor of the independance for the Irish Parliament, although he did not believe in the political separation between Ireland and Great Britain. He was Lord of the Treasury from 1774 to 1782, then extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Berlin and Vienna in 1793. Master of the Horse from 1804 to 1806, he was in charge of the Royal Stables and of all matters regarding horses and kennils of the sovereign. He ended his carrier in apotheosis, as Lord Chemberlain from 1812 to 1822, which was the higher position in the court’s administration. Hetford married a first time to Alice Elizabeth Windsor in 1768, but she died in 1772. He remarried in 1776 to Isabella Anne Ingram, aged 16, who also was the mistress of the Prince of Walles, future George IV, on whom she is known to have had a great influence. Hetford attempted unsucceedely to take his wife away from the Prince. George IV was also close to the Hetfords son, Francis Charles Seymour-Ingram, Lord Yarmouth, known for his dissoluted life that inspired the character of Marquess of Steyne, in William Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair (1846). The Hetford House hosts the Wallace Collection nowadays, that holds a few pieces of Hetford’s collection, including paintings of Reynolds, Romney and Gainsborough, Sèvres porcelains and French furnitures. Some fireplaces still exhibited in the rooms of the Wallace Collection in London show very interesting similarities with our fireplace, especially in the associated use of marble and gilt bronze but also the figure of caryatids .