1 inch to 5 ft
Signed and dated
Undated, probably 1760s
Medium and dimensions
Pencil, pen, brown wash on buff paper
377 x 290
James Adam, Office of
This design and that in Adam vol.7/109 are probably both connected with James Adam's Parliament House scheme of 1762/63. Although no fountains appear in the later copy plan in Adam vol.28/3, James Adam wrote in November 1762: 'I have personified the Thames and the Forth, transforming them into fountains at the foot of my great stairs, the former leans on a Lion with a crown of roses, the anchor lies by him and the oak and mistletoe grow by his side. The unicorn supports the Forth with a garland of thistles and rue, from a rock by his side spring the fir and the birch. As I have a great deal of sculpture I have recourse to a good deal of this sort of invention' (J. Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome, London, 1962, p.305). However, a scheme by Adam for a theatre shows at the entrance portico two similar fountains to that shown here, with lion and unicorns beside the lower basin (see Adam vol.7/170 and, in greater detail, Adam vol.7/184, which come close to such ideas). The composition of putti and dolphins is a familiar one and the design may well have been derived from those depicted in the four books by Giovanni Battista Falda (1643-78), Le Fontane di Roma (1675), a copy of which appeared in the Adam sale of 1818 (see Catalogue of A Valuable Collection of Antique Sculpture etc. R. Adam, Christie's, London 21 & 22 May 1818; see also D. Watkin, ed., Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, Vol. 4, Architects, London, 1972, p.186).
The decorated urn is a version of the three shown as fountains in Adam vol.7/155 and for 'Berkley Square' in Adam vol.7/151, all probably connected with the building of Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square in London, c.1762.
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