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You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Italy: Rome, Santa Maria del Priorato. Unfinished record drawing of a design for the lower part of the High Altar.
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image Adam vol.26/177

Reference number

Adam vol.26/177


Italy: Rome, Santa Maria del Priorato. Unfinished record drawing of a design for the lower part of the High Altar.




Inscribed in ink in a contemporary hand upon the Globe is placed a saint

Signed and dated

  • Undated, possibly 1763

Medium and dimensions

Pen, pencil, ink framing lines 307 x 193, three horizontal foldlines


Unidentified eighteenth-century artist, possibly George Richardson


In 1764 Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) began reconstruction of the 1568 church of Santa Maria del Priorato, Rome for the Knights of Malta; the building was completed in 1766. This may be a copy of the drawing in the library of the Berlin Staatliche Museum, Germany (see E. Bowron & J. Rishel, eds., Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, Philadelphia and London, 2000, catalogue of an exhibition at The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2000-2001, p.142, fig.24). Unlike the Berlin drawing, this shows no indication of St Basil being transported heavenwards. As James Adam left Rome in May 1763, this drawing may possibly be a copy of a finished drawing that was submitted to the Cardinal Rezzonico to gain the commission such as that in the Morgan Library for the ceiling vault (see J. Wilton-Ely, Piranesi as Architect and Designer, London, 1993, pl.109). This would suggest a date of 1763, and the draughtsman may possibly be George Richardson (d.c.1813), which would explain the inscription. The drawing has been folded three times, like Adam vol.26/178, which suggests postal transmission.
There is a drawing of the elevation of Santa Maria del Priorato in Adam vol.27/48.



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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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