Sir John Soane's Mu­seum, Lon­don

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Sir John Soane (1753- 1837) was an English ar­chi­tect who was known for his neo­clas­si­cal style. The son of a brick­layer, he rose to the top of his pro­fes­sion, and be­came Pro­fes­sor of Ar­chi­tec­ture at the Royal Academy and an of­fi­cial ar­chi­tect to the Of­fice of Works in Lon­don. He re­ceived a knight­hood in 1831.

His best-known work was the Bank of Eng­land, a build­ing which had a wide­spread ef­fect on com­mer­cial ar­chi­tec­ture. He also de­signed Dulwich Pic­ture Gallery, which, with its top-lit gal­leries, was a ma­jor in­flu­ence on the plan­ning of sub­se­quent art gal­leries and mu­se­ums.

The mu­seum is lo­cated in Hol­born, at Lin­coln Inn’s Fields and was Soane’s own home. He orig­i­nally lived at no 12, which he bought c.1792 and then af­ter he was ap­pointed Pro­fes­sor of Ar­chi­tec­ture in 1806 he bought no. 13, next door, which he re­built it in two phases. In 1823 he pur­chased the third house, no. 14. Whilst liv­ing at no. 13 he set up his own work stu­dio and spent many years re-mod­el­ling the house.

In 1833 he ne­go­ti­ated an Act of Par­lia­ment to pre­serve the house and col­lec­tion af­ter his death for the ben­e­fit of ‘am­a­teurs and stu­dents’ in ar­chi­tec­ture, paint­ing and sculp­ture. This step was nec­es­sary be­cause Soane did not get on with his son, Ge­orge, who had writ­ten to the pa­pers de­nounc­ing his fa­ther as ‘a cheat, a char­la­tan and

a copy­ist’. Since un­der con­tem­po­rary in­her­i­tance law Ge­orge would have been able to lay claim to Sir John’s prop­erty on his death, to solve his debt prob­lems, the Soane Mu­seum Act was passed which stip­u­lated that on Soane’s death his house and col­lec­tion would be pre­served for the ben­e­fit of the na­tion, looked af­ter by a Board of Trustees.

To­day, Sir John Soane’s Mu­seum is one of the coun­try’s most un­usual mu­se­ums with a con­tin­u­ing and de­vel­op­ing com­mit­ment to ed­u­ca­tion and cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion. As well as boast­ing a fine ar­chi­tec­tural col­lec­tion, it also houses Soane’s Egyp­tian arte­facts (in­clud­ing an alabaster sar­coph­a­gus of Seti I, which was dis­cov­ered by Gio­vanni Bat­tista Bel­zoni), as well as Greek, Ro­man and Me­dieval pieces. In Septem­ber 2016 the mu­seum con­cluded a seven-year pro­gramme of restora­tion which has fully re­turned this unique Ge­or­gian house and mu­seum to the orig­i­nal de­sign of its founder. In Jan­uary 2017, the mu­seum has used the lat­est in 3D scan­ning tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate a per­fect on­line dig­i­tal replica. Now vis­i­tors can vir­tu­ally dis­cover key rooms from the Mu­seum, and learn more about a num­ber of ob­jects from the col­lec­tion. This year also sees the first con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tion, Marc Quinn:

Drawn from Life, at the mu­seum. The ex­hi­bi­tion is part of a new pro­gramme to build upon the ethos and val­ues of its founder. Soane wanted his col­lec­tion to in­spire cre­ativ­ity and cu­rios­ity and Quinn has long been in­spired by Sir John Soane’s col­lec­tion of his­toric frag­ments.

Above, left: The ex­te­rior of the John Soane Museum

Above, right: The newly opened up Cat­a­combs room in the museum

Left: Sir John Soane

(Im­ages Cour­tesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Pho­tos: Gareth Gard­ner)

Right, from top: The museum as a 3D scan; The sar­coph­a­gus of Seti I lit by can­dle light; The paint­ing gallery

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