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  • image M606

Henry Provis, maker

Model for part of a wall of the Rotunda at at the Bank of England, designed by Sir John Soane, showing the courses of masonry and demountable in sections


Painted mahogany

Height: 39.5cm
Width: 60cm
Depth: 32.5cm

Museum number: M606

Curatorial note

When Soane carried out his early survey of the Bank buildings he found that the roof of the Rotunda was in too bad a state to admit repair. He decided to rebuild, replacing the original lath and plaster with ‘incombustible materials, no timber being used in any part of the new construction’ (Soane’s Designs for Public and Private Buildings). This mahogany model had a practical function for its shows the masonry construction of one of the Rotunda’s niches; it was almost certainly made to explain the system to the masons on the job.

There are three references to a model for the Rotunda in the Soane Museum’s archives. The first is an entry in volume II of Soane’s Journal, dated May 13th 1794, and reads: ‘Making designs for the Rotunda & Model of do’. The carpenters working for Soane at the Bank were Swinton and Martyr. Their account from Lady Day to Midsummer 1794 in the registers of Bank accounts includes the charge of 15s, for ‘Mahogany and turning of d” for Model’, in the section ‘Materials and Time to Rotunda’ (Vol III p 50). The third reference xx also occurs in the volumes of Bank accounts and concerns Henry Provis (birth and death dates unrecorded) who had entered Soane’s office in July 1791. Provis was described by Bolton as an ‘out-door clerk, generally employed in charge of buildings in the country’. His association with the model of the Rotunda is not recorded until 1797 and volume IV of the Bank Accounts, when Soane applied to the ‘Honble Governor, Deputy Governor, and Directors of the Bank of England’ for the reimbursement of £58. 16s ‘Paid Henry Provis at different times for sundry Models for the use of the Workmen &c of parts of the Rotunda, 4 Pr Cent Office and Front next Lothbury’.

These three references may all allude to this model. The entry in Soane’s Journal might refer to office time or to Soane’s own part in ordering the model’s construction and deciding what should be shown and how. The Bank Accounts indicate that Swinton & Martyr were frequently asked to ‘turn’ parts of models - such as columns or urns – and were seldom responsible for building a complete model. The carpenters bill mentions mahogany and this is the only surviving Bank model that is made of mahogany. Provis, we are told, made a model of parts of the Rotunda, a description applicable to this model. The date at which Soane applied for Provis’s pay is not particularly relevant: fees were quite frequently allowed to accumulate.

It seems sensible therefore to assume that this model was made by Provis under Soane’s direction, with pieces of mahogany prepared by Swinton & Martyr.

Exhibition history

Buildings in Progress: Soane's Views of Construction, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 1995
John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 September - 3 December 1999; Centro Palladio, Vicenza, April - August 2000; Hôtel de Rohan, Paris, January - April 2001; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 16 May - 3 September 2001; Real Academia des Bellas Artes, Madrid, October - December 2001
John Soane: Reading's Architectural Hero, Reading Museum, 5 May - 2 September 2007
Metropole London 1800 bis 1840, Villa Hügel, Essen, 6 June - 8 November 1992
Visions of World Architecture: John Soane's Royal Academy Lecture Illustrations, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 12 January - 28 April 2007

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