Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Theoretical reconstruction of the ruins at varying stages of excavation (5)



Theoretical reconstruction of the ruins at varying stages of excavation (5)


Seen in this order, this group of drawings can be taken as an imagined record of the excavation and restoration of Soane's ruins. The first drawing shows the ruins as initially 'discovered', 282 and 283 have hypothetical lines of arches below the ground and drawings 284 and 285 show progressively dug out and rebuilt aspects of the ruins, ending with 285 at a stage where the ruins have been excavated far enough for the tessellated courtyard pavement to become visible.

The process of 'reconstruction' is partly explained by the knowledge that Soane introduced the game of imagining the original form of his 'ruins', to his guests - a parlour game of sorts. He even recommended the process of reconstructing the fake ruins on paper to his son John, during the latter's years spent studying at Cambridge (John junior never complied with his father's suggestion).

Even in the 1830s, the reconstruction of the ruins was important to Soane on another level - as a reference point for his collection both ornamenting the house and displayed within it. Drawings 282, 283 and 285 all show roundels by Thomas Banks of 'Sol' and 'Lunar', copied from the Arch of Constantine and also used on the Lothbury Arch of the Bank of England and in the vestibule of Pitzhanger itself. Christopher Woodward suggests that 'All of these ornaments were copied from the facade of Pitshanger Manor, tempting us to wonder if he is visualising the house itself in ruin'. The house facade ornament, then, was intended to be seen as a pastiche of these fragments from the imaginary ruin reconstructions - rescued from deterioration by Soane.

Drawings 282 and 283 are dated the Day Book records that C. J. Richardson was the only one working on perspectives at that time. Given the similarity in draughtsmanship between all within this group of drawings it can safely be assumed that they are all by him.


C. Woodward (ed.), Visions of ruin: architectural fantasies and designs for garden follies, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane's Museum 1999, p.31



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 Theoretical reconstruction of the ruins at varying stages of excavation (5)