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Rough preliminary variant designs and final (unexecuted) design by ? George Dance for a picture gallery, April/May 1787 (7)


Drawings 1 to 6 are by Soane and, drawn freehand with writing pen and ink and, with fold marks and rather worn, they were presumably made away from the drawing office. They show the evolution of a difficult design problem in which an eight-foot-wide corridor with access to five rooms and no windows could be re-modelled as a picture gallery.

Drawing 7 is a copy of the final design presented to Mrs Beckford (William Beckford's mother) on 28 May 1787 (a month after Beckford had gone abroad) and is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MSS Beckford a.1). The copy (and original) may have been made by Soane - neither of his two pupils at that date would have been sufficiently competent - but was probably drawn by George Dance (1741-1825). Evidence includes: the freehand drawing of the tiny figures of the dome; the cast shadow of a column; the palette of colours for the interior decoration; the distinctive bar scale with dots above the marks of division, and the overall quality of the drawing.

It seems unlikely that Dance merely lent his draughting skills to Soane and some of the inspiration for the innovative design for the gallery must have come from Dance; a picture gallery with top-lighting would have greatly interested him. His executed design for the Common Council Chamber of the Guildhall, London of 1777-8, included a pendentive or canopy dome (in which the dome and the pendentives are part of the same sphere) similar to the Fonthill example though circular rather than elliptical on plan. It was lit by a glazed oculus with an iron frame of concentric circles in the same arc as the dome. At Fonthill, the twin elliptical domes were crowned by conical lanterns set on drums. This Dance/Soane design for a canopy dome with lantern was not a wasted experiment; the first built example of a related design was the fine canopy dome with lantern in the Yellow Drawing Room at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, 1790-1.



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 Rough preliminary variant designs and final (unexecuted) design by ? George Dance for a picture gallery, April/May 1787 (7)