On 9 December, a score of ANS members gathered outside Sir John Soane’s Museum for an introduction to the treasures which this celebrated architect had assembled. Our guide relayed biographical details ranging from Soane’s humble origins as the son of a bricklayer to his fortunate meetings with individuals such as George Dance able to further his career and his happy marriage to Eliza Smith, a wealthy heiress who helped to fund his collection.
In the dining room and library our guide drew attention to inlaid Cantonese chairs, a portrait of Soane by Sir Thomas Lawrence, a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds and an Apulian Vase suggestive of the Grecian urn which inspired Keats’ ode. A host of other features were equally noteworthy.
After the introductory talk members were free to wander at leisure and be impressed by the Picture Room displaying 118 paintings, including Hogarth’s original paintings of A Rake’s Progress and An Election and three of Canaletto’s finest works. Most visitors descended to the Sepulchral Chamber in the basement, to view the sarcophagus of King Seti I (1303 – 1290 BC). Soane acquired this significant Egyptian antiquity in 1824 after the British Museum declined to pay £2,000 for the artefact.
The abundance of items on display proved almost overwhelming and all felt the museum merited a return visit.
Our group walked to Bedford Row to join members already partaking of Wedlake Bell’s generous hospitality prior to the Annual General Meeting.