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  • image Image 1 for MR18
  • image Image 2 for MR18
  • image Image 1 for MR18
  • image Image 2 for MR18

Model for the New State Paper Office, London, west front & adjacent bays as executed, (designed by Sir John Soane)


Museum number: MR18

Curatorial note

The plaster model MR18 does not show all the State Paper Office: only the West front appears in its entirety, the North and South fronts appear in part. Unusually, the other side of the building, the elevation to Duke Street, is illustrated by a perspective drawing attached to the back of the model (the perspective cannot pre-date May 1831, when Soane altered the design of the main entrance to the one shown on the drawing, see 82/2/21).

The model shows the State Paper Office almost as built. End bays with rusticated pilasters or Vignolan quoins, upper storeys with double rows of pilasters have all been abandoned. Plain banded rustication has been applied to the upper floors, vermiculated rustication to the basement. The Greek fret frieze has assumed its executed position beneath the cornice; the panels decorated with a Greek key motif have been added below the windows to the principal floor. The attic windows are inserted in the metopes. The only major difference to the design as executed first concerns the chimney stacks, a factor that may be key to the dating of the model. Chimneys aside, the earliest drawings to feature the built design are sheets 82/1/52-54, of which 53 and 54 are dated 9th May 1831.

It is evident from the plates in Soane’s Designs for Public and Private Buildings (1838) that the State Paper Office’s first chimney stacks were far lower and plainer than those in the majority of Soane’s designs for the building. The drawings generally feature tall chimneys (see 82/1/33 and 82/1/38), their height sometimes disguised by ‘link’ walls strung between them. Whether for reasons of economy or aesthetics, their height was reduced in building, with the consequence that the fireplaces smoked. Soane had to re-work their design in 1834.

Some of the earlier drawings do have chimneys similar to those on model 18 MR (see 82/1/34 dated 3rd May 1830), but they do not appear in pairs. One drawing – 82/2/28 dated 24th February 1834 – does show them as on the model. It is a part elevation of the south front and the chimneys are drawn on a separate piece of paper that has been pasted into position. Because Soane was concentrating on the chimney stacks when he made the drawing, he did not bother to give details of the façade. Instead he twice made the note See Model, almost certainly referring to MR18.

Soane’s accounts for the year 1834 record payments made William Robson and Thomas Estall, Plasterers, of 17 Abchurch Lane (see Correspondence Cpd 2/XV/K (3)). The lists of works carried out by the plasterers between February 22nd and November 26th included: ‘Altering & Repairing the Modell of the New State Paper Office, St James’s Park’. This must apply to model MR18.

The original date of the model is therefore probably circa 1831, with the alterations of 1834 being made to show Soane’s latest design for the building’s chimneys.

Exhibition history

Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836, The Courtauld Gallery, London, 17 October 2001 - 20 January 2002

Associated objects

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