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 east front

Perspective of the east front

John Soane
21 July 1811
Pencil, pen and grey washes on paper
65/4/25 (Dulwich drawing 36)

This drawing in Soane's own hand was made as a preparatory sketch for later presentation drawings, one of which was probably exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1812. It shows a design for the Mausoleum as a cruciform projection, on plan, with three false doors.

The dome is crowned by a 'stele', which was a device used in Greek architecture to mark a grave.