The 6th Duke of Devonshire visited the sculptor's studio in Milan, Italy, on 12 October 1846 on his way to Naples. He ordered the marble sculpture on 18 October, placing a £60 deposit on the following day. The sculpture was ready to be dispatched to England in April 1847, and the Duke appears to have displayed it in Chiswick House, west of London.
It first came to Chatsworth in 1999 and was shown in the Sculpture Gallery where it appeared in the 2005 film 'Pride and Prejudice', starring Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen.
In Ancient Rome, the Vestals were virgin priestesses whose lives were dedicated to the goddess Vesta. They were tasked to look after the sacred fire burning on her altar in the temple of Vesta, and were regarded as fundamental to the safety of Rome. The discovery of a "House of the Vestals" in Pompeii in the 18th century made Vestals a popular subject matter in art over the following 50 years.