Or more fully the Sir John Soane’s museum is an odd little place, located on the north side of Lincolns Inn Field when you arrive a bevy of apparatchiks accost you, demand that you switch off your phone, take no photo and stow any bags in a clear plastic bag. Entrance is free. A contemporary picture of the breakfast room is below.
Soon these precautions begin to make sense as you encounter a cornucopia of stuff (including a literal cornucopia), crammed into every space. Soane was an architect and collected a vast array of architectural pieces, columns, statues, architraves, an Egyptian sarcophagus (one of the stars of the show). My favourite thing was a small, mournful looking owl. I liked that owl.
The whole place is covered by yellow glass to give the illusion of sunshine, while preserving the exhibits. So packed are the exhibits the prohibition on bags becomes logical. It is difficult to just enjoy the exhibits though, due to the conflicted space and the very keen staff in every room who if you look too interested will without warning begin to regale you with the history of what you are looking at. I don’t like this but then I do now know what a napkin press looks like and the one I was bemused by is the original one.
This is justified in the painting room. Soane’s collected Hogarth and had two painting series. One is called the election and the other the rakes progress. However due to lack of space the first is displayed on the outside of cantilevered doors, which have to be opened to expose the second. A knowledgeable white gloved flunky is responsible for this and accompanies this with the history and details of the paintings. It’s quite interesting actually.
Other paintings include a very good Canaletto (below) and the marvelously titled Admiral Van Trump’s at the Entrance of the Texel by Turner. Always nice to see a stormy Turner sea scape.
It is a fine house (well three houses), with excellent furnishings and leather bounds book. Many windows are stained glass including some very modern looking ones. For those interested in architecture there are also several of Soane’s architectural designs and drawings on display, including his submission for the competition to rebuild the palace of Westminster.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.