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John Jackson (1778 - 1831)

Portrait of Sir John Soane, in Masonic Costume, as Grand Superintendent and President of the Board of Works

1828-29

Oil on panel

Height: 61.5cm
Width: 46.5cm

Museum number: P142

Curatorial note

The title of this work comes from the catalogue for the Royal Academy exhibition in 1830 at which this picture was seen for the first time. It was commissioned by Soane as one of pair with the posthumous portrait of Mrs Soane with her dog Fanny on her knee (P148).

Soane was probably inspired to commisison this portrait of himself as Architect to the Freemasons by the completion of Freemasons' Hall, in Great Queen Street, to his designs in 1828-29. Jackson depicts Soane seated, next to the 'Ark' that he designed for Freemasons' Hall and with the hall itself in the background. The artist has carefully chosen to feature one of the remarkable architectural achievements of Soane's design - placing large windows directly above the fireplaces - usually impossible because of the necessity for flues in that position. Soane managed this by running his flues sideways and then up to the chimneys. One of the large hanging argand oil lamps that lit the Hall, with its opaque glass shades, is also shown.

Although there is a masonic apron in the Soane collection (object number X271) it is not the one shown in this portrait. Soane borrowed

Soane's Notebooks (his diaries) record that he sat to Jackson several times in 1828-29. An entry on 13 June 1828 records ‘Mr Jackson at 11 – last sitting' [a reference to the final sitting for another portrait of Soane painted by Jackson which is now in the National Portrait Gallery] but goes on to record the commissioning of this second portrait: 'Pd Mr Jackson for a small picture of myself to be painted – Do. for a picture a pendant of Mrs Soane £105'.’ After that payment visits to Mr Jackson are recorded on 3rd, 7th, 11th and 12th of July before formal sittings on
15 July ‘Mr Jackson at 12 – 2nd sitting for small picture’; 18 July ‘Mr Jackson at 2 – 3rd sitting for small picture’ and 22 July ‘Half past one o’c Mr Jackson, 4th sitting.’ Soane had a further appointment with him on 25th at 1 o'clock (not recorded as a sitting). The next references to the portrait come in 1829 when on 22 Feb Soane notes ‘… Mr Jackson for box of Mas[onic] Dress & key' and 5th March when he records ‘… call in the morning on Mr Jackson and take Masonic box.’ The final references are at the end of that year: 10th Dec ‘Went to Mr Jackson' and 14th Dec ‘Mr Jackson at 12. Went, too foggy to proceed with the picture.

It is interesting to note that this portrait is contemporary with the Lawrence portrait of Soane P11 and with the bust of Soane by Sir Francis Chantrey (M931). Together they convey a vivid impression of Soane's appearance at that time, at around the age of 75-76.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Commissioned by Soane from the artist in June 1828, with a pendant portrait of Mrs Soane (SM P148).

Literature

Soane, Description, 1830, p.41.
Soane, Description, 1835, p. 21
New Description, 2007, pp. 30 and 101

Exhibition history

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1830


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