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image Adam vol.26/163

Reference number

Adam vol.26/163

Purpose

Unfinished capriccio of a group of tiered funerary monuments showing a steep staircase between two circular mausolea, which have fluted columns and oval relief plaques, leading to a monument crowned by a vast sarcophagus.

Aspect

Perspective

Inscribed

Inscribed in black chalk in a later hand Piranesi

Signed and dated

Undated, possibly l1755

Medium and dimensions

Red chalk, pen 535 x 750

Hand

Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Watermark

crowned fleur de lys

Notes

In 1755, Robert Adam wrote that Piranesi (1720-78) '... is just now doing two drawings for me which will be both singular and clever...' (J. Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome, London, 1962, p.167). This drawing and that at Adam vol.56/146 have been presumed to be they. It is dated by Wilton-Ely to either 1755 (see J. Wilton-Ely, The Mind and Art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, London, 1978, p.167), or to 'c.late 1740s' (see J. Wilson-Ely, Piranesi, Paestum & Soane, London, 2001, pp.8, 63). However, if this drawing belonged to James rather than Robert Adam, then this is unlikely to be one of the two drawings referred to by Robert Adam. It is also surprising that Piranesi would have made a presentation drawing that is obviously unfinished. The subject-matter of funerary monuments can clearly be related to Piranesi's Le Antichità Romane, 1756, where volume two dealt with Sepolchri Antichi to which this drawing may be related. There is another, earlier composition in the Opere Varie, 1750, and a similar drawing in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK. Robert Adam's name appeared in the dedicatory plate (second state) of volume two of Le Antichità Romane, and the Campus Martius, 1762, was dedicated to him. James Adam dealt with the negotiations about this and according to him, Piranesi '... hinted at a dedication to me ...' in July 1761 (see Fleming, op.cit., p.374).
There is a discussion of the comparative pictorial material in Wilton-Ely, 2001, op.cit. (see pp.62-63).

Literature

Repr. M. Richardson, ed., Soane: Connoisseur & Collector, catalogue of an exhibition at Sir John Soane's Museum, London, London, 1995, pl.19; D. Stillman, 'Robert Adam and Piranesi' in Essays in the History of Architecture Presented to Rudolf Wittkower, London, 1967, pl.XXI/2; J. Wilton-Ely, Piranesi as Architect and Designer, London, 1993, p.23.

Level

Drawing

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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