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image Adam vol.26/172

Reference number

Adam vol.26/172


Design ?for a capital with a nautical theme showing two mermen as volutes above a necking of oak and lotus leaves, with two dolphins.



Signed and dated

  • Undated, probably 1760 - 1763

Medium and dimensions

Pencil, pen, grey wash 550 x 384


Antonio Zucchi (attributed to)


crowned fleur de lys


Like Adam vol.26/161, this is one of several variants of the classical capital by 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. The composition here can be compared with that in Adam vol.7/13, which shows a similar nautical character by the use of dolphins, 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).
This drawing is the companion to Adam vol.26/161 and like that it may be inspired by the ancient capitals shown in G.B. Piranesi's Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto, which first appeared in 1753. It differs from Adam vol.26/161 in the replacement of the female figure with a shield, ?Britannia, with the elaborate trident.



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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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