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Designs for a 'Castello d'acqua', August 1779-1780, with later rough alternative designs by George Dance (10)

Signed and dated

  • 1779
    Main Year
  • 1780
    Other Years


In emulation of George Dance, Soane had decided by August 1779 to enter for the Parma Academy's competition for which the submission date was 25 May of the following year. The subject was a waterworks or 'Un castello d'acqua decorato d'una pubblica fontana'. Soane's first known alternative designs were made in August 1779 and more finished drawings with additions by another hand followed. However, Soane did not enter for the competition leaving Rome for England on 19 April 1780, arriving home at the end of June. Soane published a design for a 'castello d'acqua' in Designs public and private, 1832, plate xxxiv*, fig.3. The plan is based on drawing 4 and the elevation on drawings 5 and 6. Inevitably there are variations, for example, the dome has been re-worked and is conical with a heavily decorated drum. Soane's designs for the 'castello d'acqua' are closely related to his Design for an unidentified mausoleum on an X-plan, 1779-80 and a design for a doghouse on which he worked during his stay in Italy see (Soane's early works, 1770-1785): Downhill: County Derry, Northern Ireland. Unexecuted alternative designs for a doghouse for Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry and 4th Earl of Bristol, 1778-9 and later Soane exhibited designs for these as well as for a hunting casino (q.v.) at the Royal Academy in 1781.
See also Soane's sketchbook (in Sketchbooks catalogue): Italian Sketches 1779 (volume 39) 11recto for an X-plan, and domed elevation probably made between 4 and 5 of January 1779.
Dance's designs (drawings 8-10) are rougher and quite different in character from the previous ones and presumably came after Soane's return to London in the summer of 1780. Perhaps in the course of a discussion of Soane's unresolved design which he may have intended finalising and exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1781.
Related drawings at the Victoria and Albert Museum: see P.du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum), catalogue 12,13
Literature. P. du Prey, John Soane's architectural education 1753-80, 1977, pp.243-54; P. du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, pp.177-93; M.Richardson & M.Stevens (eds), John Soane architect: master of space and light, 1999, p.107

Jill Lever, August 2005



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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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Contents of Designs for a 'Castello d'acqua', August 1779-1780, with later rough alternative designs by George Dance (10)