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image Adam vol.26/161

Reference number

Adam vol.26/161

Purpose

Unfinished design for an Ionic-style capital with the volutes replaced by mermen and with Britannia supported by dolphins in the centre on a necking of lotus and oak leaves.

Aspect

Elevation

Signed and dated

Undated, probably 1760 - 1763

Medium and dimensions

Pencil, pen, grey wash 289 x 290

Hand

Antonio Zucchi (attributed to)

Notes

This composition is undoubtedly an invention of James Adam and may be compared with his designs for British and Scottish Orders of 1762 and c.1764 (see Adam vol.7/69 and 163). Like them, it may be associated with his scheme for Parliament of 1762/3 found in Adam volume 7. There is a variant on this design in the same hand in Adam vol.26/172, where the figure of Britannia has been replaced by an elaborate trident supported by dolphins. The composition is used again in a pencil sketch for an Order with Pegasus (see Adam vol.7/193) and also in another using dolphins (see Adam vol.7/13), of which there is a version by the Scottish architect John Baxter (d.1798) in the National Gallery of Scotland (RSA 540) and a fuller version in album 1 of the Hardwick drawings in the RIBA (see 1/69). 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).
Apart from the thumbnail sketch of the Scottish Order (Adam vol.7/163), the rest of these drawings may be attributed to Antonio Zucchi (1726-95). The drawing here has been squared, presumably for enlargement or engraving. There are several illustrations of similar capitals from various classical sources in G.B. Piranesi's Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto (1753) and a dolphin one from the mausoleum of Augustus in his Le Antichità Romane (1756).

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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