The Soane Museum is a museum of architecture, and was formerly the house and studio of Sir John Soane. It holds many drawings and models of his projects and the collections of paintings, drawings and antiquities that he assembled. The Museum is located in the Holborn district of central London overlooking the square of Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Soane demolished and rebuilt three houses in succession on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields. He began with No. 12 between 1792 and 1794, and then moved on to No. 13 (now the entrance to the Museum), re-built in two phases in 1808-9 and 1812. After completing No.13, Soane set about treating the building as an architectural laboratory, continually remodelling the interiors. He concluded with No. 14, rebuilt in 1823-24. This project allowed him to construct a picture gallery, linked to No.13, on the former garden of No.14.
The museum was established during Soane's own lifetime by a private Act of Parliament in 1833, which took effect on his death in 1837. The Museum Trustees remained independent, relying only on Soane's original endowment until 1966. They now receive an annual grant from the British Government. The Soane Museum is now widely regarded as a national centre for the study of neo-classical architecture.
The architectural historian Sir John Summerson was curator of the Museum from 1945 to 1984.
All of the rooms of the main house are very carefully proportioned. For many years they were displayed starkly, perhaps contributing to the reputation of Soane as a cerebral architect. Since the 1980s, the original decor has now been restored, and they appear as a more comfortable set of domestic interiors.
The most famous spaces are those in the studio and museum buildings covering the former gardens, which are mostly toplit. The "starfish" ceiling of the Breakfast Room, inset with mirrors, has influenced architects from around the world. The ingeniously designed Picture Gallery has folding panels on the walls that allow it to house three times as many items as plain walls would. If visiting, it is necessary to be patient and wait for each wall to be opened up in turn.
Soane's collections included a large number of architectural drawings, ranging from John Smythson to most of Robert Adam's original drawings. There are many of Piranesi's original sketches of Paestum. The sculpture collection includes both marble and terracotta works by John Flaxman
From the painting collection, the best known are by William Hogarth, including the eight panels of A Rake's Progress and the four panels of his famous political satire The Election based on the Oxford Parliamentary Election of 1754. There are also three major works by Canaletto.
The alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I lies in the basement of the museum.
- Official site - http://www.soane.org/