Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sir John Soane's house of treasures

Very close to the Holborn tube stop is this elegant, leafy and quiet street called Lincoln Inn Fields overlooking a pretty little park. In the middle of the row of extravagant townhouses is Georgian architect Sir John Soane's rather incredible residence.
The facade looks a tad eccentric, yes, with those partial columns and stone maidens on the third floor, but nothing prepares one for the interior. Sir John left his house to Britain in 1837 with one minor clause: nothing was to be changed. I didn't quite know what to expect other than an old house, but the place is crammed from floor to ceiling in most locations with jaw dropping objects from antiquity, including Seti I's sarcophagus (the British Museum was offered it for 2,000 pounds but rejected it, and let's just say it's not exactly a piece of junk). Only a few people were let in at a time (and it was free) which made the viewing rather pleasant throughout. Much of the house does feel like a museum, that is, the way museums used to be before more thought was given to actually viewing pieces with some breathing space around them. Most amazing is the atrium, which stretches from the basement through three floors to a glass domed roof. The reception rooms on the ground floor are beautiful yet odd, with rather startling colors and murals on the ceiling. Besides loads of old Roman busts and pieces of ancient decor (one clearly sees where he got his inspiration for his own Neo-Classical designs), there's the Hogarth Rake's Progress paintings in one room (1734). The downside: no interior photography allowed and the books for sale aren't very good. However, interior photos can be seen here.

1 comment:

Will Finn said...

How cool! i've never heard of this. i'd go just for the hogarth drawings alone.