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Designs (5)


Although only two of these drawings are inscribed with dates (and those two years apart), the 1801 watermarks of the others suggest that this group was made within the period that Soane lived at Pitzhanger.

The ruin was evidently a concept that occupied Soane's mind. He later wrote a description of his house at Lincoln's Inn Fields from a future perspective with the house in ruins. At Pitzhanger Soane constructed actual ruins, establishing an architectural lineage and an imaginary past for his house. The ruins also provided a source of amusement for guests and for Soane himself, watching the reaction of such guests to the planted fake antiquity.

Christopher Woodward suggests many sources and influences that throw light on Soane's interest in ruins, among them Thomas Sandby's designs for ruins at Virginia Water (1760s), Hypnerotomachia Poliphili 'in which Francesco Colanna created an hallucinatory world of classical ruins and gardens' and the many Piranesi engravings of Roman ruins within Soane's own collection. The apparent model for the ruins at Pitzhanger was the Temple of Clitumnus at Spoleto, which had a first floor door for priests or magi to preach from - as Soane's ruins indicate different levels of triumphal arch and temple.

Interestingly there are no surviving working drawings for the construction of the ruins, presumably because their construction was less technical than that of the house itself.

For further information on the ruins see Section 12, drawings 264 to 285.


Visions of ruin: architectural fantasies and designs for garden follies, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane's Museum 1999, p.30



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

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

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.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).  

Contents of Designs (5)