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  • image Adam vol.7/13

Reference number

Adam vol.7/13


Unfinished design for a capital on a nautical theme showing a figure holding a trident with a dolphin on either side amidst acanthus leaves. Beside this is a detail showing a dolphin.



Signed and dated

  • Undated, probably 1762-63

Medium and dimensions

Black chalk 217 x 168, torn at top left, bottom right and left


Attributed possibly to either Robert Adam or John Baxter


Calculation in pen; panel of stylised decoration in pencil, and grey wash brush tryouts.


There is a more finished version of this capital in Adam vol.26/161, another volume of drawings connected with James Adam. It may be associated with James Adam's scheme for Parliament of 1763 and was probably complementary to his designs for a British Order (see Adam vol.7/69) and for a Scottish Order (see Adam vol.7/163). His British Order at least was to be used '... for the great portico of my project, as I suppose you may guess' (J. Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome, London, 1962, p.306). Adam had strong feelings about the capital and the Orders as '... a wonderful part of decoration...' which should be used only in '... a most conspicuous place, such as a portico or centre part of a building' (Fleming op.cit., p.318). Although the idea for such an Order was probably James Adam's, the bold and vigorous draughtsmanship is in a hand more closely associated with Robert Adam than James. There is another version of a similar capital by the Scottish architect John Baxter (d. 1798) in the National Gallery of Scotland (RSA 540); Baxter was in Italy in 1761 and, as a protégé of Sir James Clerk, probably knew James Adam. He 'made many careful copies of these Antique capitals' and possibly worked for Adam in this capacity (see Designs of Desire, Architectural and Ornamental Prints and Drawings 1500-1850, catalogue of an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1999, p.266). In Adam volume 19 there are several later copies after antique pilaster capitals, including one with dolphin that can be related to this composition (see Adam vol.19/103).
It is possible that all three drawings mounted on this album leaf, Adam vol.7/13-15, replace two drawings that were removed at some stage, as glue marks remain.



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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