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Designs for chimney-pieces in the ladies' library, Sir Alexander Hood's room and bedrooms, datable to 1789-90 (6)


The decorative ladies' library chimney-piece (drawings 8 and 9) is of white statuary marble and composition, with a guilloche pattern on the cornice, a narrow leaf motif on the frieze and fluted jambs. The chimney-pieces in Sir Alexander's Room and the south bedroom are more severe, made of veined marble with fluted jambs, fluted frieze and a finely moulded mantel shelf. These chimney-pieces would have been more expensive than the statuary marble and composition library piece, composition being a stone substitute used 'for ornamental work - the name given to a sort of putty, consisting of whiting, glue, linseed oil, and resin, subjected for two hours to the action of steam, and forced by great pressure into wooden, metal or other moulds' (The Dictionary of Architecture, ed. Wyatt Papworth for the Architectural Publication Society, 8 vols, 1859-92).

The last design (drawings 11 and 12) is for the chimney-pieces in the west bedroom and west dressing room, the north dressing room chimney-piece having the same design on smaller dimensions. The delicate chimney-piece has an acanthus motif on part of the frieze and jambs with a leaf pattern panel. Only the fireplace lining is veined marble.

Pencil inscriptions on the drawings refer to using these designs in other c. 1789 Soane buildings. The pencil inscription on drawing 6 notes that the same chimney-piece is used in the breakfast room of a house for Lord Abercorn. Soane altered and extended Bentley Priory for Lord Abercorn from 1789 to 1794, with further works in 1798-9. Drawing 6 has a pencil note that recommends the same chimney-piece in a bedroom for Mr Oakes. Drawing 7 has a similar note, referring to the drawing room and dressing room of Mr Oakes's house. Two drawings (SM 80/1/7 and 47) show designs for a house in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, for James Oakes Esq, dating from April and June 1789. The note on drawing 6 also refers to a Mr Patteson, probably John Patteson for whom Soane designed additions of a house in Norwich in 1790 (q.v.).



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 Designs for chimney-pieces in the ladies' library, Sir Alexander Hood's room and bedrooms, datable to 1789-90 (6)