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  • image SM (9) 81/1/46

Reference number

SM (9) 81/1/46


Working drawing, 28 January 1799


9 Elevation and full size detail


no. 19 all of veind Marble and some dimensions given

Signed and dated

  • Bank Jan:28:1799


Soane office


Drawing 9 shows a head of Bacchus above the jamb: crowned by a wreath of vine leaves and grapes. The Bacchic theme is continued into the freize, with swags of vine leaves and grapes entwining a thyrsus. The Dictionary of ornament defines a 'thyrsus' as a 'Staff with a pinecone at one end, often entwined with ribbons and/or grapevine or ivy leaves. It appears in Bacchic decoration as an attribute of Bacchus, satyrs and Maenads (or Bacchantes)'.

The Dictionary of ornament also suggests that 'Bacchus and his attributes were widely used in decoration, sometimes as a symbol of living by the senses to contrast with Apollo who personified reason'. Most commonly, Bacchic ornament was used in dining rooms and would therefore have been designed for one of the residential appartments at the Bank (probably one belonging to a senior figure, given the elaborate nature of the ornament).

The verso side of (SM 10/8/17, drawing 3 in scheme 1:8) also shows a rough sketch for a chimney-piece with similar Bacchic ornamenet: the head of Bacchus and the vine leaves and thyrsus. The design includes additional ornament on the jambs and fireze section, consisting of segmental arches enclosing circles. The inscription indicates that the main body of the chimney-piece was to be of black marble and a further (cropped) part of chimney piece is shown with a jug moulding in the block above the jamb.


P. Lewis and G. Darley (eds.), Dictionary of ornament, 1986



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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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