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Preliminary design for a ceiling for the great staircase, 1768, executed with minor alterations (1)


The great staircase is located at the centre of the north range, adjacent to the eating room to the west, and the library to the east.

According to Harris, it was the arrival of Rubens' Glorification of the Duke of Buckingham in 1767 which prompted some reworking of the room. Buckingham was a distant relative of the Child family, and his two portraits by Rubens - originally commissioned by Buckingham himself for York House - were purchased by the older Francis Child in 1697, and installed in his townhouse at 42 Lincoln's Inn Fields. When 42 Lincoln's Inn Fields was replaced by Robert Child with the more fashionable 38 Berkeley Square, Rubens' two portraits were removed to Osterley, one to the gallery, and the other to the staircase. Unfortunately, both paintings were destroyed by fire on Jersey in 1949, but there is a modern copy of the Glorification of the Duke of Buckingham currently set into the ceiling of the staircase at Osterley.

Adam had installed a new ceiling in the great staircase in 1765, but this was demolished to make way for Rubens' painting. The new ceiling of 1768 was executed in accordance with Adam's design, except that the guilloche border was replaced with Vitruvian scroll to match the wall mouldings and carved baluster handrail. The plasterwork of the ceiling survives in situ.



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 Preliminary design for a ceiling for the great staircase, 1768, executed with minor alterations (1)