Monday, June 18, 2007

This is a review of a very personal collection by Sir John Soane, whose home is now a museum of the art and archaeology collected by him:

IT’S hard to imagine Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London as being anything but quiet and pleasant. The peaceful locality is home to many lawyers who work in the vicinity as well as the Royal College of Surgeons. Located at the heart of this legal enclave is the remarkable Sir John Soane’s Museum, the brainchild of one of England’s most imaginative architects. The museum was originally Soane’s home. John Soane (1753-1837) was the son of a bricklayer near Reading in Berkshire. He was appointed architect and surveyor to the Bank of England in 1788

. . .

Soane designed and built his first house at No.12, Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1792-94, which is now part of the museum. Needing more space for his collections, he purchased and rebuilt No.13 next door, where he lived until his death. In 1824, he also rebuilt No.14 using the back of its site as an extension to his museum.

. . .

Soane’s collection of sculpture casts and antiquities are packed into every nook and cranny and the authorities fear they may be knocked down if too many people are let in at once. I was told by a rather severe-looking lady not to “swing my handbag” and to take off my coat and deposit it near the reception counter.

The house reflects Soane’s obsession with ancient Rome, as huge pieces of carved marble seem to defy the confines of the relatively small rooms. Soane used the Dining Room, which I first entered, to entertain guests and as a library for some of his 7,000 books. The “Pompeian red” of the dining room walls is probably based on a fragment of wall plaster he pocketed when visiting the excavations at Pompeii. The two Apulian vases, Cawdor Vase and Englefield Vase, and Cantonese chairs made of padouk wood and inlaid with mother-of-pearl are exquisite.

The full account of the museum can be found at the above link.