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image P79

Joseph Michael Gandy (1771 - 1843)

Soane office: composite drawing of the National Debt Redemption Office and Life Annuities Office incorporating the Cenotaph to the Rt. Hon. William Pitt: inset plan, 3 interior perspectives, 2 detail interior perspectives, 1 exterior perspective and 1 detail exterior perspective

Watercolour on paper

Inscription: THE NATIONAL DEBT REDEMPTION OFFICE / VIEW from the HALL to the COUNTING OFFICE [top left]
Inscription: ELEVATION of the NATIONAL DEBT REDEMPTION OFFICE [lower left]
Inscription: A COURT belonging to the OFFICE[bottom centre, left]
Inscription: A VIEW OF ONE OF THE ARCHES [bottom centre, second from left]
Inscription: PLAN of the NATIONAL / DEBT REDEMPTION OFFICES [bottom, centre right]
Inscription: A VIEW IN THE DOME [bottom right]
Inscription: THE NATIONAL DEBT REDEMPTION OFFICE / VIEW under the DOME towards the HALL [top right]

Museum number: P79

Curatorial note

The National Debt Redemption and Life Annuities Office in the Old Jewry, designed by Soane, was erected in 1818 and the Commissioners moved in in 1820. The Pitt Cenotaph within the Office was not completed until 1823. This drawing was produced at that point specifically for exhibition at the Royal Academy (Exhib: RA 1823, no.979).

All the views and the plan are captioned except for the view centre top which looks towards the Pitt Cenotaph with its seated bronze statue of William Pitt the younger by Richard Westmacott.

Soane's friend, the antiquary John Britton, published the first full account of Soane's Museum in 1827 and devoted a long passage illustrated by engraved plans, section and views, to assessing the qualilties of the National Debt Redemption Office (which he singled out for comment along with the Royal Gallery at the House of Lords) providing a fascinating contemporary critical account as follows:

As connected with the subject of interior decoration and as examples of Mr Soane's style of design in architectural composition .... the National Debt Redemption Office .... has been selected rather as exhibiting the more striking peculiarities of the architect' style, than as a specimen of his best works. There is undeniably much that is fanciful and beautiful in the arrangement, and much that is both original and tasteful. This will be apparent even to the uneducated eye on examining the plans, section and the view .... The plan of the ground floor ... of the dome-room or inner vestibule ... and of the dome itself ... are evidences of an inventive and poetical mind, eager to discover novelty, and to produce pleasing and impressive effects. The arrangement of the plan provides for all the accommodations of the establishment; and at the same time invests a public office with the beauties of architecture. It should be borne in mind, that the dome-room ... was not designed merely as a vestibule or a hall to the principal rooms but was destined to receive a colossal bronze statue of the late Mr Pitt, that celebrated financier and statesman. This is seated on a pedestal at the end of the room facing the doorway, and occupies a large portion of the apartment .... By examining the section and the perspective, we perceived abundance of decoration, and of enirched design in the dome-room ...while the vestibule ... and office .... seem bare and plain; but the latter two are for business, for the reception of all classes of visitors, and therefore ornament would be irrelevant. Yet this vestibule appears ... too plain to accord with the embellishments of the inner vestibule, and in its beautiful peristyle and dome. We are by no means averse to bold contrasts in architecture; on the contrary, they often produce brilliant effects, similar to abrupt transitions in music: still, even in contrast, at least in the artist's sense of the term, some principle of unity and agreement ought to be always recognisable'.


The National Debt Redemption Office and Pitt Cenotaph were demolished in 1900.

Literature

J. Britton, Union, 1827, pp 57-58


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