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Breakfast Room, February 1801 - August 1802 (15)

Soane took a huge amount of care over the design of both the Breakfast Room and the Library as these two rooms were to hold arguably the most important purchases in his collection. By comparison, there are no surviving designs for Soane’s Drawing Room or any of the upstairs chambers. The Breakfast Room’s central piece was to be the ‘Cawdor Vase’ (now at the Soane Museum) - a 4th Century BC Apulian krater which Soane had purchased in 1800 from the Earl of Cawdor’s sale at Christies, along with three other vases for £80 0s 6d. The designs for the Breakfast Room do not start until early 1801, and it seems very likely that Soane first bought the vase and then designed the room around it.

The Breakfast Room in its current position was initially designed as the Library (now directly opposite the Breakfast Room on the western side of the house). Thus the initial designs (particularly drawings 190 and 194) include tall bookcases set within niches lining the walls, three on each side. The room’s purpose soon transferred to that of a Breakfast Room and was designed with a variety of niches, mantels and eventually columbaria (sets of niches designed for holding cinerary urns in Roman catacombs), all designed for the display of Soane’s collection. Many familiar motifs are repeated in the Breakfast Room, including the acroterion enclosing a wreathed eagle (in the segments under the canopy dome).This form can also be seen in the cinerary urns represented in some of the designs for the Library, for example in drawing 211 (which also emphasises the funereal character of the room).

The Breakfast Room was restored to its present condition in 1986 based on research by Ian Bristow. However, most of the collection originally displayed within the room is now at the Soane Museum.

Virginia Brilliant's TS Pitzhanger catalogue has been instrumental to the creation of this catalogue.

Matilda Burn 2010
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