Curator’s Choice - Northern Vision
Exhibition curator Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski introduces his favourite drawing from the Museum's current exhibition of treasures on loan to the Soane Museum, 'Northern Vision: Master Drawings from the Tchoban Foundation'
If I could choose any of the drawings to take home from the exhibition this would be the one: Jean-François Thomas, known as de Thomon, (1760 Paris – 1813 St Petersburg), View of ancient Rome and Nero’s Palace, 1798, Graphite pencil, brown pencil, scratching, pen, sepia on coated paper, Signed and dated at bottom on pedestal of statue: Thomas / de Thomon / 1798, Inventory No. 067. This exceptionally masterful drawing clearly demonstrates Thomon’s talents as a draughtsman and also his deep interest in antiquity.
The centre of the capriccio shows the well-known antique Mattei Amazon from the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Surrounding it are various real antique vases, reliefs and architectural elements whilst in the background can be seen imaginary classical bridges and temples. The closer you look at it, the more detail you see. It is almost too incredible to think that a person could achieve such levels of artistry in handling a pencil. Like many of the architects who came to work in Russia, de Thomon initially worked in Central and Eastern Europe for such patrons as the Princes Esterházy in Hungary or the Princes Lubomirski in Poland before settling in St Petersburg in 1799. There, he built one of the city’s most iconic neoclassical buildings – the Stock exchange on the Vasilevsky Island. In 1800 he was also made a Professor at the Academy of Arts there. However, he also didn’t always play in a gentlemanly manner. Apparently, in order to secure commissions, Thomon would sometimes erase the name of a rival draughtsman from their drawings and substitute his own! The peril of drawing in pencil – no matter how well you do it!
Northern Vision: Master Drawings from the Tchoban Foundation runs from 21 June to 28 September in the Exhibition Gallery at Sir John Soane's Museum. Featuring highlights from the collection of Europe's newest museum of architecture, the Tchoban Foundation in Berlin, as well as drawings by Sergei Tchoban illustrating his practice's interest in the continued use of architectural draughtsmanship. Many of these drawings also reflect the distinctive and historical cityscapes of Berlin and Sergei Tchoban's native St Petersburg.