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  • image P127

Joseph Michael Gandy (1771 - 1843)

Architectural ruins, a vision


Watercolour on paper

Museum number: P127

Curatorial note

Imaginary view of the Rotunda and the Dividend Warrant Offices at the Bank of England in ruins.

This watercolour shows the Rotunda at the Bank of England (designed by Soane and completed in 1798), drawn in the year of its completion 1798 but showing the structure as if it was a Roman ruin. The newly-built 4% Office is also visible on the right. The small figures of men with pickaxes working around a fire amidst the ruins recall the calciatori of Rome, who pillaged marble from its ancient sites to be burned into lime. This atmospheric watercolour recalls Piranesi's views of ruin with its dramatic point of view and fallen fragments in the foreground.

Gandy drew SM9/2/1C, a view of the interior of the Rotunda as built, in the week of 19 June 1798 and this vision of the same space in ruins the following week. The two drawings are not the same size and were probably not intended to ever be hung together but they do represent alternative presentations of Soane's design.

This drawing was exhibited at the Royal Academy 34 years after it was executed, in 1832, at the time of Soane’s retirement as architect to the Bank, under the romantic title of Architectural Ruins – A Vision (Exhib: RA 1832, no. 992) and accompanied by lines from Prospero's famous speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest:
'The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
the solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve'.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Commissoned by Soane.


Christopher Woodward (ed.), Visions of Ruin ..., exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane's Museum, 1999, cat. 23

Exhibition history

'The Cloud-Capped Towers': Shakespeare in Soane's Architectural Imagination, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 21 April - 8 October 2016
Death and Memory: Soane and the Architecture of Legacy, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 23 October 2015 - 2 April 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
Soane's Magician: The Tragic Genius of Joseph Michael Gandy, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 31 March - 12 August 2006
Visions of Ruin: Architectural fantasies & designs for garden follies, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 2 July - 28 August 1999

Associated objects

9/2/1C, comparison
Vol 12/11, Preparatory drawing

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