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  • image SM, 110/59

Reference number

SM, 110/59


[3] Design for a Corinthian room entablature, possibly for the King's Bedchamber, the frieze with flowers, putti, birds of paradise, ribbons, fronds and acanthus whorls, c. 1689-91




About 3 inches to 1 foot


In ink by George Dance near bottom left (bottom right, when sheet is vertical in volume), Gd, and below in C19 hand, (58)

Signed and dated

  • Undated, but probably dating near beginning of period 1689-94

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink over graphite under-drawing with grey and grey-brown washes; on laid paper, laid down, with pinkish-brown staining in 60 mm at left edge (originally top of sheet) with cracking and corrosion of paper in badly stained areas and an early corner repair at bottom left; 320 x 464




Countermark: combined PVL (see 110/32)


This design has much in common with the entablature of the King's Bedroom, carved 1699-1700. This has a similar modillioned cornice and a frieze with limewood relief carvings of pairs of sporting birds resting on bunches of flowers, leaves and wheat ears and encircled by acanthus whorls. However, Gibbons's design for the frieze is far more complex, both in subject matter and design, and the drawing does not indicate clearly how deep the carved features would be. The drawing implies a relief of considerable depth. On the right, a cupid is in the rear plane of a composition which has acanthus whorls in a middle plane and birds of paradise on a front plane. Yet the relief detail appears to cling to the surface of the frieze and nothing is revealed in section or side view. The design was probably prepared relatively early in the first period of construction, 1689-94, and then used as the basis for the entablature of the King's Bedchamber. The principal simplification in the executed work was the elimination of putti. Other secondary foliage details were also eliminated, and the scrolling pattern of the acanthus was emphasized, making the frieze more readable from a distance.
The pattern of staining on the bottom of this drawing closely matches that on the top of 110/62, demonstrating that they were originally very close together or next to each other in the volume but in contrary positions. The design of the frieze is similar to that in Gibbons's drawings for the Queen Mary's Closet (6/7/1 and 2). As a design it is evocative rather than practical, as it is most unlikely that a scheme of this degree of intricacy (with miniature putti within the foliage) it would have been executed as drawn.


Wren Society, IV, pl. 42, top; H. Avray Tipping, Grinling Gibbons, 1914, p. 89 and fig. 84; G. Beard, Grinling Gibbons, 1989, fig. 39



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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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