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Daniel Quare (1649 - 1725)

Portable pillar barometer

Walnut with brass, silvered brass, glass and mercury

Height: 99cm

Museum number: MP281

Curatorial note

By Daniel Quare (1649-1724), c. 1710, walnut with brass, silvered brass, glass and mercury. Of columnar form, with rectangular plinth or pedestal supporting a part spiral-twist and part stop-fluted column, the foliate gilt engraved metal case above numbered 30 to one side, with finials above for adjusting the recording pointers, the silvered-brass register plates calibrated for summer and winter; all raised on hinged brass splay feet cut from sheet brass with applied mounts of female masks with cresting above and drops of fruit and flowers below; register plates with scales covering the inches 28-31 and subdivided into twentieths; the inch digits are engraved at the outer edges of the plates; the plates have English inscriptions. Weather indications marked: on the left ♀Rising / FAIR / OR FROST engraved at a slant above VARIABLE which is engraved in two halves either side of the tube and set at the 29.5 inch line; below ‘vari’ on the left ♀Falling / RAIN SNOW / OR WINDS, engraved at a slant; on the right DRY / SERENE above and RAINY / STORMS below, all engraved at a slant.1

One of the most illustrious clock and watchmakers of his day, Daniel Quare obtained a patent for his portable barometer in 1695. Almost all of Quare’s pillar barometers are in cases of walnut or ivory. They could either hang on the wall or stand on a table top. Quare numbered his barometers, the series reaching about 150, and many are signed on the square brass piece below the register plates.2 Although this example is numbered it is not signed.

Soane’s acquisition of this antique instrument is evidence of his interest in technology as well as, perhaps, in what Peter Thornton called ‘old furniture of distinction’. The barometer was in the collection by 1818 when it appears in a section through the Breakfast Parlour by Fransis Copland (Vol. 83, 1) standing on a surface (reflected in a mirror) on the extreme right. By the mid-1820s it stood on the north windowsill in the Library/Dining Room in J M Gandy’s view of 1822 (P86, details) where it was next to the Rehe pillar barometer (L95); a deliberate juxtaposition of old and new versions of the same instrument. By the time of Soane’s death, the Quare barometer had been removed to the appropriately antiquarian setting of the Monk’s Parlour, where the inventory numbering sequence shows that it stood on the Walpole desk (XF261) in the window along with a chrismatory, a bronze inkstand and a pair of candlesticks made with wood from Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The frontispiece to The Union of Architecture, Painting and Sculpture by J Britton, 1826 – 27, shows the desk, seemingly covered in a red cloth, with two of these items and an open book.

1 The slightly imprecise engraving of the weather indications at a slant is typical of Quare and is unlike the traditional layout in which they are arranged in a list so that they coincide with the half-inch divisions of the scale. See N. Goodison, English Barometers 1680-1860, London, 1977, pp. 194-195.
2 N. Goodison, English Barometers 1680-1860, London, 1977, pp. 193-194

Provenance help-art-provenance

This barometer was in Soane's collection by June 1817 when it is shown in a watercolour of the Breakfast Room (Vol.83/1).

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