Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

My future home.

September 12, 2009 · 1 Comment

   I have to say I was pretty excited when I heard that Sir John Soane’s Museum is filled with THINGS. Not only THINGS, but precious antiquities and works of art. Little did I know that these antiquities would include Images from the Past: Rome in the Photography of Peter Paul Mackey, a wooden mummy case, a Chinese printed scroll dated 1711, and Italian sculptures right in one’s backyard in Central London. Upon entering the actual museum, I thought “This is what my future home will probably look like.” Full of things that no one else would understand for why they are kept in a house but John Soane had a clear mission. To collect items that sparked his interest, his passion, items that would be questioned by others not only during his lifetime but centuries later. That would explain his construction choices, the placement of certain objects, the lighting, the different feel of each room and exhibition. All of these choices have made for a great museum.

   The tour guide at the door was not too happy when a couple of us acknowledged the fact that all we knew about Sir John is that he was an influential architect during the 18th Century. All he told us was to watch out for Sir John’s design of the windows, as how he intended for natural light to be used. With the words from the tour guide in mind: “Whether or not you will like the museum, you will not be able to deny that this is a special place” I proceeded to the living room, where Sir John actually did his “living” considering that this is the only room of the house that looked somewhat cozy. Observing his library filled with books of highest rarity, I knew I was in for a treat, and was going to find something that I was not able to in the rest of the museums seen in London. 

   The lighting of the constructed house was truly magical. Being a neo-classical architect upon constructing the museum in 1808-09 Soane used primary top lighting while including stained glass. After doing more research, the lighting and the architecture of Soane’s house seemed to provide toplit spaces and in miniature form an idea of the lighting contrived by Soane himself for the toplit banking halls at the Bank of England. Another aspect of the museum that I found fascinating was the room that holds all of the paintings collected by Soane throughout time. During the 1820’s and 1830’s, Soane collected works by contemporary artists, many whom were specially commissioned in order to encourage continuous painting by the students. Upon entering the room, one is under the impression that there is only one layer of paintings that are showcased in the room; however, upon a twist of a knob by a museum employee revealed layers and layers of art. As in a fairy-tale, Richard Westall’s Milton Dictating to His Daughters, Sir Joshua Reynolds’ The Snake in the Grass and Sir John Soane’s own sketches of Bank of London, Buckingham House,  Cambridge buildings were all in front of me. As I moved from room to room, I could not believe the riches that Sir John was able to collect and keep within his house.

   Questioning how he was able to store Roman sculptures made from stone and marble in his back yard, I left thinking that Sir John was one talented architect who had a major influence on the city of London but also someone who had major appreciation for art in general. His collection definitely required major monetary contributions which a person like myself will probably not be able to have  as a collectible in “my future home.” However, I do love the fact that the house is being used for the purposes that he set out for. It is a museum, a structure that allows students as well as any other individuals wishing to stroll through this house, to observe what this one man could find and collect.

Categories: Jeyla · Museums
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1 response so far ↓

  •   russella // Sep 13th 2009 at 05:10

    I really liked the home turned museum feeling too. Other than the British museum, I have been too as of yet have felt so distant. But this one, I could feel Soane’s soul pulsing through the very house. It is mind boggling to think that each piece was hand selected, tenderly gazed upon and craddled back to the sanctuary of Sir John Soane’s home. It seems to be the general opinion that the staff there find it horrific that no one knows about the guy, which I thought was rather annoying.

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