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You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  [1] Design for a chimney-piece with displays of porcelain on the overmantel and above the fire surround, and with draped upholstery across the overmantel
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image SM, volume 110/23

Reference number

SM, volume 110/23

Purpose

[1] Design for a chimney-piece with displays of porcelain on the overmantel and above the fire surround, and with draped upholstery across the overmantel

Aspect

Elevation, mostly blank on right side

Scale

Not indicated, but approximately 1 foot to 4/5 inch

Inscribed

In ink by George Dance at top left, Gd, and to right, by a C19 hand, (23)

Signed and dated

Undated, but datable 1689-94

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink over graphite under-drawing, with grey-brown, yellow ochre and pink wash; on laid paper, with pinkish-brown blotching, staining and corrosion in top 50mm of sheet; 468 x 284

Hand

Gibbons

Watermark

None visible

Notes

Although the narrow bands of cast shadow around the porcelain and drapery features suggest semi-relief trompe l’oeil carvings, it is far more likely that Gibbons intended a real-life display but had not yet considered the practicalities of supporting the porcelain and allowing sufficient depth for the vases and their brackets. Displays of porcelain on shelves and brackets of an overmantel were commonplace in seventeenth century Holland; Daniel Marot illustrates several examples in his Nouveaux Livre de Cheminées à la Hollandaise. Gibbons had this type in mind but at this stage appears to have been less interested in the practicalities of the design than in its overall composition. Carved and painted drapery (itself decorated with porcelain motifs) would have provided the backing for the porcelain itself. The fire surround and mantel shelf would have been in stone or marble rather than wood. The unusual grey-wash shading all round the top and sides is probably intended to emphasise the suitability of the scheme for a variety of locations, including a corner position. It is not clear whether the yellow ochre is indicative of painting or gilding.On the right side of the design Gibbons has drawn a more deeply projecting cornice above the outline of a larger supporting bracket. The entablature has a coved cornice with acanthus leaf decoration similar to that of 110/58 (section 6/2, no. 1), which is close to the executed cornice in the King's Little Bedchamber (see Thurley 2003, fig. 193). Another connection with this group in the motif of two rose bushes twisted together above the fire surround. This occurs on 110/62 (section 6/2, no. 4), and may suggest that the two drawings are close in date. The paper appears to be of the same type as used for the drawings in sections 6/1 and 2 (110/32, 35-38, and 110/58-60, 62), although no watermark is visible. The architrave of the fire surround is also detailed in an identical way to those in section 6/1. No scale is indicated but the height of the chimney-piece on the drawing from the base to the top of the cornice is 18 inches. The height from the floor to the top of the cornice in the principal rooms of the king's and queen's apartments is 22 feet. On that basis the scale of the drawing is in the region of 1 ft to 4/5 inch

Literature

Thurley 2003, pp.178-80, fig. 165; Wren Society, IV, pl. 37, lower; Green, 1964, fig. 85

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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