By 1800 Soane had built himself a successful career, inherited a fortune, gained a young family and built his own town house at No. 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields. The next thing he wanted was a house in the country – to confirm his position in society and to provide space for his ever expanding collection of art and artefacts. He first bought a plot of land at Acton, early in 1800.
Interior perspective of the library
Joseph Michael Gandy
Pen and coloured washes on paper, framed
P94 (Pitzhanger drawing 221)
This atmospheric drawing of the library, exhibited at the Royal Accademy in 1803, was made by J.M. Gandy, an architect and perspectivist employed by Soane to make many drawings of executed or proposed buildings. In this case, the perspective was made prior to construction, even though it shows the rooms in use.
The room has a four-armed starfish ceiling (a form that can also be seen in the breakfast room at No. 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields). The room was designed specifically to house Soane's expanding collection of art and artefacts, which can be seen around the room: urns and vases in the wall niches and books lining the shelves. The cast reliefs of 'The Dancing Hours' from the Palazzo Borghese, above the doors, are the only objects that remain in the library. The rest of the collection was removed to Lincoln's Inn Fields when Soane sold Pitzhanger.
Soane's own work can be seen around the room – a plan of the Bank of England lies on the table and the framed drawings above the niches display designs for various Soane buildings. Mrs Soane is seen in the adjacent breakfast room. The whole composition is given an air of theatricality by the heavy stage curtains in the foreground.