Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Design for decoration of pendentive, as executed


  • image SM volume 74/39

Reference number

SM volume 74/39


Design for decoration of pendentive, as executed


42 Section, detail and Elevation of Spandrell in the Dome


bar scale of 1 inch to 1 foot


as above, Bank Stock Office

Signed and dated

  • datable to 1792

Medium and dimensions

Pen, pencil, pale red ink, sepia and pale yellow ochre washes on wove paper with one fold mark (523 x 648)


attributed to William Lodder (assistant 1789-?) or Charles Ebdon (assistant 1791-1792)


This large-scale elevation shows the decoration of the shallow pendentive dome surmounting the hall's four piers and supporting the circular lantern above. The ornamentation of this surface was crucial to the spatial and structural effects of the hall, as Soane strove to represent the dome as a taut, attenuated surface stretched across the crossing below.
Soane achieved this effect by essentially concealing its underlying structure (compare with drawing 18). Instead of having a heavy archivolt facing the voussoirs of the arch, Soane applied a thin extrados moulding coming to a precise point at the angle of the supporting piers, then springing up so as to form a triangular spandrel, incised with thin lines and centered on a rosette and lion's-mask patera.
The effect of this decorative system is to focus the viewer's attention away from the downward, segmental line of the arches and instead on the rising concave surfaces of the corner spandrels. The lower portion of the dome thus reads not as four arches, but as four spandrels delicately poised on the piers below and appearing to support each other at their upper corners.
The upper part of the pendentive dome is treated as a continuous blank surface, flanked by the spandrels below and thin serpentine-and-acanthus mouldings above, shown full-size at the top of the drawing. The shallow pendentive dome then opens up into the circular lantern above, the dome's upper edge curved back in a concave moulding - as shown in sections on this drawing - so that the rim appears as a thin lip, accentuating the appearance of the dome below as a thin, taut surface.
Soane's overall intention was to create a light, vaulted superstructure for the hall, delicately balanced on corner supports. The relative modesty of the decorative treatment appropriately conformed to the commercial character of the Bank, while also following the contemporary taste for simplicity.


E. Schumann-Bacia, John Soane and the Bank of England, 1991, pp. 52-53, ill. 39



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

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.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).