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image Adam vol.7/23

Reference number

Adam vol.7/23

Purpose

London: Parliament House (designs for). Designs for the relief sculpture for a pediment showing a seated queen at a table being read a long document. On either side are figures and armed guards. It is set in a hall with niches, sculpture and pilasters.

Aspect

Elevation

Signed and dated

Undated, probably 1762-63

Medium and dimensions

Pen, brown wash and white heightening, partly oxidised, on brown washed paper 314 x 1278, two pieces of paper joined

Hand

Antonio Zucchi (attributed to)

Watermark

crowned fleur de lys

Notes

The subject is probably the Union of the Parliaments under Queen Anne in 1707, and as such part of the constitutional history of Britain. The costume is, like that for King John in Adam vol.7/20 and 21, early seventeenth-century and thus anachronistic. The hall in the background is probably a glimpse of the interior that James Adam intended for his Parliament House scheme with its great emphasis on sculpture and relief sculpture; the niche sculpture shown in Adam vol.7/31 and 33 can also be read in this way. There is a version of this relief shown as pediment decoration in the Parliament scheme elevation in Adam vol.28/3.
The set of pen and wash drawings with heightening, Adam vol.7/21-44, are all designs for the relief decoration of James Adam's Parliament House scheme of 1762/63. The predominant theme is British history and the figures are dressed in either early seventeenth-century or classical costume. The principal draughtsman was Antonio Zucchi (1726-95), although some of the figure compositions are probably the work of Agostino Scara, of whom James Adam wrote that he '... draws figures full as well as Brunias...' (J. Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome, London, 1962, p.279). Adam gave great emphasis in his Parliament scheme to the role of decorative sculpture and this probably explains the survival of so much material of this sort. In his unfinished essay on architectural theory of 1762, Adam explained: 'What is meant by outside decoration is sculpture, statues and bas-reliefs, together with foliage, trophies, frets, interlacings and a thousand such ornaments which, if properly applied, give such amazing magnificence and render an ediface so wonderfully interesting...' (Fleming, op.cit., p.317).

Level

Drawing

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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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