Henry Hoare II transformed Stourhead into his ideal place with the garden, garden architecture, paintings, sculpture, and objets d'art. He acquired Carlo Maratta's Marchese Pallavicini conducted by Apollo to the Temple of Fame in 1758 and commissioned in 1759 a pendant to this, Augustus and Cleopatra, from Anton Raphael Mengs, arguably the most celebrated European painter of the day. This subject is uncommon in the iconography of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries compared with other Cleopatra's subjects, such as the Death of Cleopatra and Cleopatra's Banquet. As is evident in Cortona's Augustus and Cleopatra it represents Augustus's morally overcoming Cleopatra's temptation. Given his preference for the Choice of Hercules, Henry must have liked its ethical aspect. As Henry had Guercino's Augustus and Cleopatra in mind, he was not satisfied with Mengs's picture: his Cleopatra lacked 'grandeur' or 'majesty'. Yet his criticism implies more than that. As the concept of luxury had been changing in the eighteenth century, Henry needed Cleopatra's gorgeous dress as a symbol of his own luxuries, the garden and his art collection. He did not need an element of sacredness in Cleopatra which he found in Mengs's or Reni's Cleopatra. As Henry was the founder of Stourhead garden and the patron of artists, Henry could identify himself with Augustus, the founder of Rome and the patron of Virgil, whose Aeneid was used as a theme for Henry's garden.
Henry's choice of Augustus and Cleopatra may have been influenced by the following books and plays. Sara Fielding's The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia, whose subscribers include Henry's friends, was published in 1 757. Dryden's All for Love was performed in April, 757 and March, 758. David Garrick's version of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra was published in October, 758 and the play was performed in January, 759. It is reasonable to assume that Cleopatra was one of the favorite topics of conversation among the fashionable circles in London in those years.