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  • image SM (14) volume 46/15

Reference number

SM (14) volume 46/15


Record drawings of ornament


Details of a console enclosing rosettes; half-detail of a soffit with a cornucopia and caduceus motif; detail of an oak leaf with an acorn; and section of moulding


to a scale


Soane office


A caduceus is a winged staff with two entwined snakes. In ancient Greece, it was the symbol of the messenger, ensuring a safe passage (Hall, p. 55). In classical mythology, it is attributed to Hermes (Mercury), messenger of the Gods, inventor of the alphabet and protector of merchants and traders (Lewis and Darley, p.66). The caduceus motif at the Bank invoked the latter characterisation. It was employed as ornamentation throughout the building, including the pendentives of the Rotunda vestibule.

The cornucopia is a large horn overflowing with fruits. It is the horn of plenty. It has many associations and accompanies various allegorical figures. Most notably for the Bank, perhaps, is its association with Fortune. The cornucopia of Fortune features on Renaissance medals that commemorate public celebrations (Hall, p.75). During the 17th and 18th centuries the cornucopia was combined with the caduceus, as in drawing 14, in commercial buildings and banks to signify prosperity (Lewis and Darley, p. 93).

In Roman society, the oak leaf was bound into wreaths that recognized civic virtue. In Renaissance and Neo-classical decoration, the wreaths are often scattered with acorns (Lewis and Darley, p.217).


P. Lewis and G. Darley, Dictionary of Ornament, 1986; J. Hall, Subjects & Symbols in Art, 1992



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

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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.

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).