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François Fouquet (1787 - 1870), maker

Model of the Pantheon, Rome, 'restored', c.1800-1834

Plaster of Paris

Height: 27cm
Width: 31cm
Depth: 39cm

Museum number: MR3

Curatorial note

The Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings of Classical Antiquity and one of the best-preserved Roman structures still standing. The history of the building and its purpose are complex and partially obscure. The present building is the third structure on the site. The first Pantheon was dedicated by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 27/25BC (Agrippa’s dedication still adorns the portico of the building). This was burnt down in 80AD to be replaced by the second Pantheon that in turn burnt down in 110 AD. The third Pantheon was completely rebuilt under the Emperor Hadrian (118/119AD- 128AD) and is characterised by a dramatic use of space with a gabled portico of rare grey Egyptian granite columns and rose granite from Mons Claudius and a colossal domed rotunda which, at 43.4 metres in diamter, is still today one of the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

Although termed the Pantheon – a temple dedicated to all the gods – this title was not official and may in fact reflect a popular nickname given to the Temple. The Roman author Dio Cassius, writing in the 3rd century, was not clear why the Pantheon had been given this name but he does mention that the interior niches contained statues to Venus, Mars and Julius Caesar, possibly acting as a shrine for the family of Augustus. Under Hadrian, images of the gods and of the imperial family also adorned the interior and Dio Cassius records that the Emperor held audiences there.

Fouquet seems to have based his model upon plates I-XIII, chapter I, of Antoine Desgodetz’s book Les edifices antiques de Rome published 1672. Fouquet has shown the exterior very much as it appears today (the interior was partially modified in the 18th century and an original marble pilaster capital, removed at that time (M821), along with a cast (M816) can be seen in the Dome Area of the Museum). Agrippa’s dedication can be clearly seen on the entrance portico as can the pair of magnificent bronze doors that open onto the great cella beyond (there is debate as to whether these are the original doors to the Pantheon). Fouquet has also shown the brick relieving arches that were built into the drum of the cella in order to take the weight of the concrete dome.

Along with some of Soane's other Fouquet models this one was damaged by an explosion during World War II, probably on the night of 15 October 1940. The model was subsequently restored and this accounts for the slightly different quality to the surface of the plaster in comparison with the undamaged models in the collection.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Sir John Soane purchased the twenty models by François Fouquet in 1834 from the architect Edward Cresy (1792-1858) who, from 1829 to 1835, worked in Paris. Soane paid Cresy the substantial sum of £100 (£10,136.78 in today’s money). It is likely that Cresy purchased the models directly from Fouquet et Fils.

Exhibition history

'Bob the Roman': Heroic Antiquity and the Architecture of Robert Adam, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 27 June - 27 September 2003; New York School of Interior Design Gallery, 29 September - 4 December 2004
In Pursuit of Antiquity: Drawings by the Giants of British Neo-Classicism, Sir John Soane's Museum, 1 February - 1 June 2008; Tchoban Foundation Museum für Architekturzeichnung, Berlin, 3 October 2015 - 14 February 2016
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
Wonders of the Ancient World: François Fouquet's Model Masterpieces, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 15 July - 22 November 2011

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