Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Drawings

Italy: Trusses for roofs, February 1780 (11 on 6 sheets)

There are 11 drawings on six uncut sheets of Italian-made laid paper of the same size; the medium is the same for each drawing and both sides of each sheet (except for SM 45/6/3 recto of which the recto only was used) have traces of the red sealing wax used to fix the sheet to the drawing board; there is some minor pricking for transfer. The drawings are all drawn to a scale, indeed a variety of scales some of which are labelled English feet and in one case (SM 45/6/4 verso) English and French feet. Where bar scales are drawn it can be seen that some of these relate to the equivalent of 2/9 and 1/3 inch to a foot. Others are 1¼, 2¾ and 3¼ inches (as well as 1 and 3/10, and 1 and 6/10) divided into 10 parts.

The evidence shows that these are all copies of measured drawings of Italian, wide span timber (with metal hangers, ties and straps) roof trusses made at about the same time around February 1780 (SM 45/6/1 verso dated thus). P.du Prey (John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, pp.156-60) wrote that there are a group of drawings in the Museo Correr, Venice that relate to Soane’s roof truss drawings. These were drawn by the Venetian architect Giannantonio Selva (1753-1816) who was in Rome at the same time as Soane. The likelihood is that both made copies from variant sets of drawings of roof trusses drawn to an Italian scale.

Useful identification comes from the RIBA Drawings Collection where there are six sheets of drawings of roof trusses of Italian buildings including: Argentine Theatre, Theatre of Bologna, Church of Santa Maria in Campitelli, Church of San Paolo fuori le Mura and Church of Sant' Andrea dell Valle. Two are inscribed 'From a drawing by a Spanish artist at Rome by C.H.Tatham 1795' and one similarly but with the date 'Jan. 7 1796'. Thus Tatham copied 'a Spanish artist at Rome - apparently Don Isodoro Velasquez, who studied in Rome with Tatham from 1794 to 1797.' (J.Lever, editor), Catalogue of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects, T-Z, 1984, p.183). Of the roof trusses copied by Soane, it can be said that they are all from buildings constructed before 1780 and relate to four theatres and four churches and that most are queen post trusses.