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Pitzhanger Manor recorded, 1832 (50)

In 1832, when Pitzhanger was sold for a third time since Soane’s ownership, Soane and C.J. Richardson set about making watercolour sketches of every aspect, for nostalgic and educational purposes. Drawings within volume 87 and volume 55 were preparatory work for lithographs made for publications on Pitzhanger Manor: Plans, Elevations and Perspective Views of Pitzhanger Manor-House, 1833 and Memoirs of the Professional Life of an Architect between the years 1768 and 1835 written by himself 1835. Both of these were privately printed; Plans had two editions published, the second, printed by James Moyes, consisting of 50 copies (eight of which are in the Soane Museum collection and only one of which has the accompanying twelve lithographs referred to in the text). Volume 90 is a proof copy of Memoirs bound with the original watercolours.

By the 1830s many of Pitzhanger’s original features had already been lost, and the watercolours were evidently made from earlier designs and perspectives. Within this group of drawings there is the additional problem that some of the watercolours have elements that do not tally with either the earlier designs or with Pitzhanger as it appears today. These changed elements include the vase finials surmounting the canopy dome caps (which do not exist today nor can they be seen in the earlier designs) and the Tudor finials added to the corners of the Dance and service wings. The ruins also gain two access staircases to the two-storey temple, in the later watercolours and an expanded footprint in their imaginary reconstruction.

Bianca De Divitiis suggests, "By trying to give Dance’s wing the appearance of a Tudor fortress-dwelling, Soane seems to have wanted not only to invent a further episode in the history of Pitzhanger, but also to widen its narrative value by absorbing its original autobiographical significance into a reflection and summary of changes in architecture over time.’ (p.59)

Ultimately, none of these watercolour sketches can shed much light on the design process for Pitzhanger or be regarded as an accurate record of the building as it was in Soane’s time. They do, however, show a nostalgic and altered attitude on Soane’s part towards a house he designed and owned for such a short period.

Matilda Burn 2010
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