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Rough preliminary design for a chimneypiece for the Chinese room, c1771-72, as executed (1)


This chimneypiece design was executed - albeit to a very different scale than implied here - by Sefferin Nelson in accordance with Adam's design. It houses nine double-sided eighteenth-century Chinese Daoist painted marble panels, and was intended for the Chinese room. This room is located immediately above the hall-cum-dining room on the north front of the house, and had originally been the upper hall. It became known as the Chinese room during Adam's time, owing to the panels in the chimneypiece. Then in 1796 it was renamed the north drawing room, and in 1815 the billiard room.

The drawing is not drawn to scale, but even the rough proportions are not accurate compared with the extant chimneypiece. As such this drawing functions very usefully as an example of Adam's early preliminary designs, and the way in which they express his thought process. In this case the details of the ornament appear to be of greater significance than the general scale and proportions of the whole.

Harris has compared this chimneypiece to Adam's 1771 pietra dura cabinet for the Duchess of Manchester at Kimbolton Castle, now at the V&A Museum, which also incorporated marble panels.



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

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

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 Rough preliminary design for a chimneypiece for the Chinese room, c1771-72, as executed (1)