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image SM 13/2/4

Reference number

SM 13/2/4


Final design exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1779


9 Cross section


bar scale of 1/10 in to 1 ft


DESIGN FOR A SENATE HOUSE SECTION ON THE LINE A B (serif lettering within a tablet-like label, shaded). 'The line AB' is not shown on the companion plan (drawing 7) but must lie transversely through the two principal rooms (Lords and Commons). On a pedestal supporting an equestrian statue: GEORGIUS III / MAG: BRIT / FRAN ET HIB / REX

Signed and dated

(pen) I SOANE (E added later in pencil) ARCH FECIT ROMAE and
(left hand corner) Octr 9th 1778 and MDCCLXXVIII

Medium and dimensions

Pen, sepia, cream, raw umber and black washes, shaded, watercolour technique, within quadruple ruled black, cream and brown washed border on laid paper, cloth backed and with black cloth-bound edges (614 x 954)


Unidentified ? Italian hand


J Honig & Zoonen and cartouche with beehive


The section follows that shown in Dance's design (drawing 6) though some details vary; the dome pencilled-in over the roof to the circular entrance hall has been preferred and elements of the interiors have been changed with, for example, a Diocletian window omited and lanterns added.
P.du Prey (John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, p.171) considered that drawing 9 was 'the one surviving drawing from the Royal Academy set' but this is not so. From later inscriptions and Soane's lecture notes, it is clear that two of the drawings were re-used for Soane's Royal Academy lecture VI (Nos 7 and 8, see D.Watkin, Sir John Soane: Enlightenment thought and the Royal Academy Lectures, 1996, pp.681-2). All three drawings are on the same Dutch-made laid paper, though the plan has been backed with paper, the elevation's cloth backing was removed and the section is cloth-backed and with bound edges. The reduced copies of the section (see drawings 11 and 14) show it as an elevation/section and of the same length as the principal elevation so evidently the elevational parts at each end of this drawing were cut off.
The three drawings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1779 as 'Plan, elevation and section of a British Senate House'. Dated 9 October 1778 (drawing 9, section), they were made in Rome. They are most carefully drawn, washed, shaded and lettered; the realistic representation of the common London stock brick exterior of the drum to the dome and external walls is surprising as is the use of a sans serif inscription on the plan (drawing 7). Soane has been seen as a pioneer in this regard and James Mosley was the first to draw attention to this in his publication, The Nymph and the grot: the revival of the sanserif letter (London, 1999) and also in his note on 'The Nymph and the Grot: an update' in his blog "Typefoundry" (http://typefoundry blogspot.com accesssed 18 January 2010).
It seems that Soane had help with the drawing (as well as the design) of this project. The ambitious size (2550mm or 8 feet 4 4/10 inches wide) of the elevation was intended to attract notice from the Royal Academicians as well as the public and while Soane may possibly have done some of the outline drawing, the fine rendering and shading and details such as the four trophies fronting the building were added by another hand. The colouring is unusual: in the elevation, the masonry has strong sepia and burnt sienna washes while the section, with its subtle lighter washes, is beautifully lit and shaded and beyond anything that Soane had drawn so far, or indeed, was to draw.



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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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