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Soane in Italy: measured drawings made or copied, 1778-80

The online catalogue of Soane's measured drawings, made or copied in Italy, 1778-80 was researched and written part-time by Jill Lever, former curator of the Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings Collection, and author of Catalogue of the drawings of George Dance the Younger (1741-1825) and George Dance the Elder (1695-1768): from the collection of Sir John Soane's Museum, Azimuth Editions, London, 2003.

I would like to warmly thank Professor Pierre de la Ruffiniére du Prey for reading and commenting on this catalogue.

My work was funded by a generous five-year grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Jill Lever, December 2009

These measured drawings are arranged alphabetically by place and then by building
MEASURING . 'The act of taking the dimensions of a building and of its parts, so as to be drawn out on paper to any chosen scale' (Architectural Publication Society Dictionary, 8 volumes, 1855-92).

Measured drawings and architectural education
Soane’s first measured drawings were made as a student of the newly founded Royal Academy. These were elevations of the river front of the Queen's Gallery, Old Somerset House, Strand, London and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, London drawn in 1770 and 1772. The buildings chosen by the Royal Academy Schools for its students were either in London or within a ten mile radius. Making measured drawings was seen as an essential part of an architect’s education. The precedent lay in Italy where the remains of ancient Roman buildings were a crucial source for Renaissance architects; their form, proportions and details as well as construction and materials were studied, analysed and recorded in sketchbooks and portfolios from the time of Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and later published in treatises such as Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura (1570).

Awarded the Royal Academy’s travelling scholarship to Italy, Soane set out on 18 March 1778 and returned in June 1780.

Measuring and drawing
The laborious work of measuring and drawing buildings often required permissions and licenses as well as ladders and scaffolding (if these could be afforded) and was best done by two students who might then share the results. Many of the ancient monuments of Rome and elsewhere were in a ruined state and the bases of columns and walls were likely to be buried in fallen masonry and detritus. Details of capitals and entablatures were often weathered and a conjectural approach might be needed to ‘restore’ the original building from the surviving evidence. Measuring rods, rule and tape, plumb line, callipers and lead strips to ‘model’ the profile of carved work, fine string to take the girth of mouldings, and a spirit level were part of the architect’s equipment. Once on site, rough survey drawings were made freehand and detailed dimensions added. From these preliminary drawings, plans, elevations, sections and details were drawn to a scale with the use of straight edge,T-square and compasses initially in pencil which was then inked in with a drawing pen.

Soane’s collection of measured drawings
There are 111 (single sheet) measured drawings of buildings mainly in Italy but with two for Sicily and four (with versos) of 18th century bridges in Switzerland. Of these drawings 25 are original, that is, drawn and measured by Soane . The remaining 86 drawings are copies mostly by Soane, that were made in Italy from a variety of sources. A few for the Temple of Vesta, Tivoli were copied after returning from Italy. Of the buildings represented by measured drawings, 19 are ancient Roman buildings, three are Early Christian perhaps supposed to be ancient Roman, 21 are 16th century or later buildings and seven are of trusses which, with the measured drawings for wooden Swiss bridges, reveal Soane’s interest in structure. Some of the buildings remain unidentified at present (see Unidentified locations).
The number of original and copied measured drawings is likely to change as more emerge in the course of further cataloguing.

Copied drawings and scales
Indications that drawings were copied rather than measured and drawn by Soane include: type and watermark of paper, marks of pricking through for transfer, methods of presentation and, in particular, a non-English scale. In this catalogue, the assumption has been made that Soane measured and drew using English dimensions and scales and thus drawings made to an Italian or other scale are copies. Helpfully, some drawings have bar scales labelled ‘Palmi Romani’, ‘Piedi Veneziani’, ‘Piedi Veronesi’, ‘Toise’ (62 French pieds make a toise) and ‘Spanish Feet’. Bar scales that do not conform to an English scale have been checked against these labelled bar scales and this has permitted further drawings to be identified as to the same scale. Measurements and thus scale varied widely throughout Italy for ‘unlike most metrological systems throughout Western Europe, the Italian developed during the middle Ages and Early Modern era without any reference to a commonly accepted set of national-ethnic standards…. Italy, with its many kingdoms, duchies, communes and the like, was never able to attain any level of metrological standardization outside the confines of strictly restricted, small, independent, political jurisdictions. Generally not until the middle of the nineteenth century, and practically not until unification was achieved in 1871, were Italian weights and measures given a totally national character.’ (from R.E.Zupko, Italian weights and measures from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, 1981, p.ix.).

Soane and Luigi Trezza
In some cases the source of Soane’s borrowing is known. For example, there are 14 copies of measured drawings made by Luigi Trezza (1752-1823) a Veronese architect who had measured and drawn buildings by the Northern Italian Mannerist Michele Sanmicheli (c.1484-1559). When Soane copied these drawings (see under Mantua, Verona and Villimpenta) he may have had publication in mind. He never mentions Trezza but Soane was in Verona in August 1779 and again in May 1780 when he recorded in his note/sketchbook (volume 162/157r) ‘44 disegni / Piedi Veronese 1.13/8’ and ‘Drawgs - 2.2.0’ which is to say, '44 drawings; one Veronese feet equals 1 foot 1 and 3/8 inches of an English foot; and drawings [cost ?] £2.2s.0d'. Soane's 'Ledger A' Has an entry under 'Rowland Burdon Esq. D[ebto]r / 1779 / Expenses at Verona in measuring the / Works of Michele San Michele --- 40.0.0 by Cash 40'.
See also note under Verona: Gran Guardia Vecchia.

Soane and Thomas Hardwick
Measured drawings for 10 buildings are associated or thought to be associated with Thomas Hardwick (1752-1829). The two men made surveys together and copied each other’s drawings for buildings such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Villa Madama. As well as those drawings catalogued here, there are two other drawings (44/6/11-12) inscribed by Soane: From Mr Hardwick Septr 30 1806 and titled Plan of the Remains of the Temple of Peace (Basilica of Constantine) and Plan of the Remains of the Temple of the Sun and Moon (Temple of Venus and Roma). These are on un-watermarked paper and pricked for transfer.

Other copies from the same source
Eleven copies of drawings (on six sheets) of Italian roof trusses come from a single unidentified source. Soane also copied eight unexecuted design drawings by Peruzzzi, Vignola, Palladio and Rainaldi for the Church of San Petronio, Bologna. Again, he may have had publication in mind.

Rough measured drawings in sketchbooks
Soane’s surviving sketch/notebooks contain rough drawings made on site of a number of buildings, of which three are represented by measured drawings. These are: the Temple of Isis, Pompeii, the Macellum (so-called Temple of Jupiter Serapus) at Pozzuoli and the Colosseum, Rome. He took particular trouble in recording the plan and details of the so-called Villa of Lucullus near Terracina; three ancient Greek temples at Paestum and some of the excavated areas of Pompeii. For these and other sketch measured drawings see Sketchbook data base and especially 'Italian Sketches' volume 39 and also 'Italian Sketches and Mema', volume 164.

Literature. P. du Prey, ‘Soane and Hardwick in Rome: a Neo-Classical partnership’, Architectural History, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, XV, 1972, pp.51-67; P. du Prey, John Soane's architectural education 1753-80, 1977, Garland Publishing Inc., New York & London (dissertation presented to the Faculty of Princeton University 1972), chapters III-VIII; P. du Prey, (J. Lever, editor), Catalogue of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects, G-K, 1973, (Thomas Hardwick, pp.89-95); P. du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, ‘Copies and Copyists’, pp.148-67; J. Lever, 'The Soane-Dance collaboration, 1771-1799, Architectural History, volume 53, 2010, pp.163-190.