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Finished drawings of eight walls for Lady Coventry's octagonal dressing room, 1765, as executed (8)


Lady Coventry’s octagonal dressing room is located beyond the bedroom on the first floor of Coventry House. Although redecorated by Adam, the octagonal shell of the room was part of Brettingham’s original house, and there is another, mirroring octagonal room on the ground floor of the house, but the use and interior decoration of this space is unknown and it was not altered by Adam. The dressing room is not connected to Lady Coventry’s bedroom, unless there was a jib door now lost, but accessed directly from the lobby at the top of the main staircase. As such it did not function as a typical apartment. According to Harris, this apartment was merely for ‘show’, and a private apartment was proposed in an extension to the rear, albeit never executed.

The octagonal dressing room was the most sumptuous interior designed by Adam for Coventry House. Unlike the great room, ante room, and bedroom, the dressing room was not hung with red damask, and instead the walls were ornamented with plasterwork by Joseph Rose and carvings by Sefferin Alken in 1767, picked out in colours and gilding on a white ground. Moreover, like the great room, there were also painted panels by Antonio Zucchi, although these are now lost.

The room was executed in accordance with these drawings, albeit with some minor alterations. In execution Adam replaced the overmantel tablet with a stucco ornament similar to the overdoors, and he replaced the oval mirror frame opposite the chimneypiece with a rinceau panel and medallion.

Adam included these wall elevations in his bill to Lord Coventry, having made them in July 1765, at a cost of £25.0s. Further working drawings were provided in November 1765, and details for the frieze and overdoors in July and August 1767. It would seem that all of these wall elevation drawings were formerly part of a single, octagonal laid out wall elevation, and have since been cropped. The complexity of such a drawing would certainly have been rare.

The room survives, but has been badly mutilated. The plasterwork on the door wall is well preserved, but the others have sustained considerable damage, and are now masked by many layers of paint and plasterboard.



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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Contents of Finished drawings of eight walls for Lady Coventry's octagonal dressing room, 1765, as executed (8)