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image XF124
Plan chest, XF124, English, unknown maker, early nineteenth century, mahogany with brass handles, ivory numbered discs and paper labels. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photograph: Hugh Kelly.

Plan chest, English, unknown maker, early nineteenth century

Mahogany with brass handles, ivory discs and paper labels

Height: 107.5cm
Width: 93cm
Depth: 123cm

Museum number: XF124

Curatorial note

Made-up of two sections each containing four drawers; each drawer has a simple scratch moulding across the top and bottom edge, two large brass bail handles and a diamond-shaped ‘Soane’ keyhole escutcheon centre front; numbered ivory discs are inset into the fronts of drawers 88, 87 and 84 and circular indents show they were originally present on all the drawers; white numbers are painted on drawers 49-56 and many drawers have rectangular paper labels under the left-hand handle recording the contents, for example, the label on drawer 51 reads HOUSE OF LORDS. At the bottom of the plan chest is a dummy drawer with four evenly spaced circular holes to allow air circulation; the chest has a vertical mahogany locking bar down the left side and the lock is stamped F & F LTD, LONDON; there is a small reading flap attached to the left-side, which is missing a original bracket support (it may be a later addition). A reeded moulding runs around the top of the chest and down the left-hand side beneath the locking bar (the right-hand side of the carcase does not have a reeded edge); the right-hand side of the chest is rough and unfinished.

This plan chest has stood in its current position in the Museum South Passage since 1824 as shown in a view of the Museum South Passage, looking east by JM Gandy, 1824, Vol. 82, 110, and houses drawings for some of Soane’s most prestigious projects. The fact that the right-hand side is unfinished may indicate that it was constructed for its present position (in which this side is against the wall); alternatively it may be an amalgam of two sections of different plan chests formerly in Soane’s lower office, the contents of which had been dispersed by this date. The lack of a reeded vertical moulding up the right-hand edge reflects the fact that originally (before the installation of a bracket for the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds which Soane installed above it in the mid 1830s) the chest abutted the wall very closely on this side, as shown in the Gandy view.

An unpublished concise list of furniture for the storage of drawings states that this plan chest was made in 1820 but the source of this information is unknown.1

1SM object files, Maya Hambly, unpublished typescript list ‘Storage of Architectural Drawings Listed 8 June 1988’.


J. Soane Description of the Residence of John Soane, Architect, London, 1835, p. 40-41

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