This portrait of Soane is perhaps one of the most memorable items in our collection. Hanging above the fireplace of the Library-Dining Room - the first room visitors enter - he seems to be looking out over his creation, welcoming people into his home and masterpiece.

The artist of the portrait is Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was the leading British portrait painter of the 19th century. Known for his flattering and polished style, he captured the glamour of the age with his portrayals of the most well-known personalities of the day, including Royalty. He became President of the Royal Academy in 1820, and was good friends with Soane, who was Professor of Architecture of the RA. The painting was completed in 1829, a year before Lawrence died.

Soane is pictured in an armchair, wearing a rich coat and velvet waistcoat. These were formal clothes, although were somewhat old-fashioned for the time. He was 76 when the portrait was painted, but the picture makes him look much younger, especially with his unnaturally youthful hair. This was actually a brown curly wig; it is barely disguised by the artist, with curls positioned at the temples to hide where it joins his scalp. Reddened lips and rouged cheeks show that his complexion has been enhanced by cosmetics, which was fashionable for the time.

Soane used his collections to project his professional image, and the positioning of this portrait is no different. Underneath it he placed a model of his proposed rebuilding of Downing Street and Whitehall. Together, they underscore his role as a public architect, and part of the Regency establishment.

Opposite the picture is The Snake in the Grass by Sir Joshua Reynolds who was the first President of the Royal Academy, and who presented a young Soane with a Gold Medal for Architecture in 1776. Both pictures are surrounded by mirrors, seemingly suspended in mid-air.  

See this Treasure

The Lawrence portrait is on display in the Library-Dining Room on the ground floor.