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A large ammonite

Museum number: MC2

Curatorial note

Ammonites were prehistoric sea creatures. Their spiral shells, used for protection and buoyancy, could grow up to 3 metres in diameter. They became extinct 65 million years ago but many fossilised examples survive. Soane acquired a number of such fossils for his collection. Two much-eroded examples can be seen outside on the roof above the Monument Court. Soane was interested in the beauty of the ammonite shell and how it might have influenced the development of architectural forms. It was widely believed that ancient Greek builders had based the capital, or head, of the Ionic column on such shells. Inspired by this, Soane’s first teacher, the architect George Dance Junior, copied the ammonite shell to create his own unique architectural order which Soane much admired. These capitals later became the hallmark of the Regency builder Amon Henry Wilds. Wilds no doubt enjoyed the pun on his name. Examples can be seen on villas and houses in south London and Brighton. (See also MC3)


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