SM (1) volume 57/30 (2) volume 57/31 (3) volume 57/33 (4) volume 57/35 (5) volume 57/32 (6) volume 57/34 (7) volume 57/36
Rough preliminary variant designs and final (unexecuted) design by ? George Dance for a picture gallery, April/May 1787 (7)
1 Section No 1 : plan and south wall elevation/section of a long, narrow barrel-vaulted gallery on an east-west axis, top-lit by three skylights on domes (the centre one elliptical). The wall is articulated by four doors plus two areas of wall that are both to receive sunk panels (for coloured prints of Raphael's arabesques from the Vatican loggie), together with two pairs of Ionic columns and a chimneypiece with glass (mirror). The bar scale indicates a length of approximately 59 feet and a width of eight feet, and the plan is marked for five doors (one is opposite the chimneypiece) so that the remaining four (of nine) are false.
2 Section No 2 : plan and south wall elevation/section, a variant of drawing 1 with the wall articulated by six pairs of Ionic pilasters and with four Ionic columns on a square plan forming a screen at the west end. The length is approximately 63 feet and the width the same as in drawing 1. The skylights are more widely spaced and the reflected ceiling plan shows a design for coffering
3 Part-elevation/section of south wall and part-plan of east and central bays; section through one of the two smaller domes and columnar screen, labelled: over the Columns / Sphinxes / Etruscan Vases; detail of a bird in flight (also on drawings 1 and 2 and wreathed on drawing 5) labelled Santi Apostoli which suggests that the source was a second-century AD bas-relief of an eagle in the portico of SS Apostoli in Rome (engraved by G.B.Piranesi, Vasi candelabri ..., 1778)
4 Two variant part-elevations/sections of south wall and part-plans of east and central bays; the topmost elevation/section almost identical to drawing 1 and the lower to drawing 2 but both drawn to a slightly larger scale
5 Elevations/sections of south and north walls and plan. Though both elevations have the same arrangement of paired Ionic pilasters as in drawing 2, alternative designs are suggested so that the topmost (south) elevation is less congested than in previous schemes while the lower (north) has drapery and swags. The plan shows the two skylights to be elliptical
6 Section No 3: elevations/sections of north and south walls and plan as in drawing 5 but with more attention to the picture hanging; (pencil) additions include: detail of Ionic column labelled Impost and elevation of columnar screen
7 Copy of presentation drawing showing plan and elevations/sections of north and south walls and close in design to drawing 6 but more precisely drawn. Two roundels have been added and the plasterwork is more detailed with, for example, angels in the spandrels of the domes
(1) feint (pricked and pencil) bar scale of 1/8 inch to one foot (2-3) to the same scale as drawing 1 (4) to a slightly larger scale than drawings 1-3 (5-6) 1/7 of an inch to one foot approximately (7) bar scale of 1/5 inch to one foot with distinctive three dots above the marks of division
1 as above, Center is left plain to contrast / with the richness of each end / & side, At the [west] End next [to] Alcove on a Pedestal an Apollo [statue], I.I.I.(inscribed on panels), I.I.I. The drawings in / Sunk Pannells, Over the Column, Antique Lion / Vases of Etruria &c, Apollo, door (three times), door / to Great Stair, door with Library, door / to blue Stair and (pencil) calculations relating to measurements so that, for example there is a total of 58 3 3/5 and another of 58.1 (length of the gallery ?)
2 as above, Skyli[ght] and (verso) Mr Beckford / Gallery
3 as above
4 doors labelled D (five times) and one also New Sit:[uation]
5 some running dimensions given, and calculations (one totalling 57.1)
6 as above, View of Gall[ery], Best Staircase, Blue staircase, Apollo, Skylight (twice), Dentil /cornice / antique / Ionic, some dimensions given and calculations
7 (no inscriptions)
Signed and dated
1-7 datable to April/May 1787 (see Notes below)
Medium and dimensions
(1) Brown pen on laid paper (187 x 295) (2) brown pen on laid paper (184 x 298) (3) brown pen on laid paper (184 x 299) (4) brown pen on laid paper (185 x 296) (5) brown pen on laid paper (185 x 292) (6) brown pen on, pencil on laid paper (349 x 297) (7) pen, sepia, light blue, Indian red and pink washes, shaded on laid paper (279 x 472)
Drawings 1-6 are on the same type of thin laid paper, each with three or four fold marks. All of the drawings are pasted into an album with (blue) sugar paper leaves (volume 57)
(1-7) not available (affixed at corners and edges)
(1-6) Soane (7) attributed tp George Dance (1741-1825) (see Notes below)
Drawings 1 to 6 are by Soane and, drawn freehand with writing pen and ink and, with fold marks and rather worn, they were presumably made away from the drawing office. They show the evolution of a difficult design problem in which an eight-foot-wide corridor with access to five rooms and no windows could be re-modelled as a picture gallery.
Drawing 7 is a copy of the final design presented to Mrs Beckford (William Beckford's mother) on 28 May 1787 (a month after Beckford had gone abroad) and is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MSS Beckford a.1). The copy (and original) may have been made by Soane - neither of his two pupils at that date would have been sufficiently competent - but was probably drawn by George Dance (1741-1825). Evidence includes: the freehand drawing of the tiny figures of the dome; the cast shadow of a column; the palette of colours for the interior decoration; the distinctive bar scale with dots above the marks of division, and the overall quality of the drawing.
It seems unlikely that Dance merely lent his draughting skills to Soane and some of the inspiration for the innovative design for the gallery must have come from Dance; a picture gallery with top-lighting would have greatly interested him. His executed design for the Common Council Chamber of the Guildhall, London of 1777-8, included a pendentive or canopy dome (in which the dome and the pendentives are part of the same sphere) similar to the Fonthill example though circular rather than elliptical on plan. It was lit by a glazed oculus with an iron frame of concentric circles in the same arc as the dome. At Fonthill, the twin elliptical domes were crowned by conical lanterns set on drums. This Dance/Soane design for a canopy dome with lantern was not a wasted experiment; the first built example of a related design was the fine canopy dome with lantern in the Yellow Drawing Room at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, 1790-1.
For further reading see J. Lever, 'The Soane-Dance collaboration, 1771-1799', Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, volume 53, pp.163-190
Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation