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.

Interior perspective of the Mausoleum under constr

Interior perspective of the Mausoleum under construction

Soane Office
Pen and coloured washes on paper
Vol. 81/23 (Dulwich drawing 100)

As part of their education, Soane sent his pupils on site to record his buildings under construction. They would go out in pairs with a sketchbook.

This drawing shows a pupil sitting at two planks supported by a builder's trestle. The other pupil must have made the sketch of his colleague, and the surrounding unfinished building – the burial chamber of the Mausoleum.