Soane's London

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Collections | Soane's London | Dulwich Picture Gallery

On 7 January 1811 Sir Peter Francis Bourgeois RA died, bequeathing to Dulwich College 360 paintings that he and his friend Noel Desenfans had collected. Bourgeois wanted the whole collection to 'go down to Posterity for the benefit of the Public'.

He also bequeathed £3,000 to the College. Most of this money was to go towards the construction of a suitable building for the art collection but Bourgeois also requested the building of a Mausoleum for himself, Noel Desenfans and, when the time came, Mrs Desenfans.

In his last testament Bourgeois recommended his friend, Soane, as the architect and Soane took the commission without a fee. The building that resulted – Dulwich Picture Gallery – was the first public picture gallery of its kind, famous for the innovative use of top-lighting.

Perspective of the west front of the Mausoleum

Perspective of the west front of the Mausoleum

Joseph Michael Gandy
Late 1812
Pen and coloured washes on paper
15/2/3 (Dulwich drawing 73)

This drawing in J.M. Gandy's hand was probably exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1813. It shows the Mausoleum as the most important (and well-lit) part of the complex; behind are the almshouses and the picture gallery. The setting, at dusk and surrounded by trees, is particularly Romantic.

The abundance of ornament including figurative statues and an elaborate balustrade were omitted through lack of funds; the built version is much plainer. However, the drawing shows Soane's inclination for a more elaborate building, had the funds allowed for it. The scale of the building is exaggerated and the figures included are smaller than they would have been in reality.