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image Adam vol.7/96

Reference number

Adam vol.7/96


Unfinished design for part of a cornice or frieze, with grotesque decoration. Also on the sheet is a geometric diagram.




Inscribed in pencil in a contemporary hand Ornaments of the palace of the/ Emperors - / Beneds Book - / painted Ornams Tivoli

Signed and dated

  • Undated, probably 1762-63

Medium and dimensions

Pencil, black chalk 178 x 158


James Adam, Office of


Drawing in black chalk showing two decorative details: an anthemion and a grotesque mask.


The pencil inscription probably refers to books; certainly the 'Ornaments of the palace of the Emperors' is the impending Adam volume, Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian's Palace at Spalatro of 1764. The other is possibly concerned with the decoration of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, of which both Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674 - 1755) and Giavanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) made surveys (see W. Macdonald and J. Pinto, Hadrian's Villa and its Legacy, New Haven and London, 1995, pp.232-5). According to John Fleming, 'Benedetto Napoletano' was probably recruited by James Adam in Naples and he may be the 'Bened's Book' of the inscription. According to Adam, his '... great delight is architecture and he already draws it well but is not yet thoroughly skilled in the figurative way and is entirely ignorant of ornament to both of which he is just now applying' (J. Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome, London, 1962, p.376).
The decorative details on the recto and verso may be related to similar, more advanced designs for the decoration of James Adam's Parliament House scheme of 1762/63 (see Adam vol.7/88 and 95).



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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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