Mrs Soane’s Morning Room
Mrs Soane's Morning Room, taken from Graphic Magazine 1884
This engraved view of the room shows how it appeared in 1884. The room was one of the more domestic and personal interiors in the house, both in its scale and in the way in which it was decorated. It was used by Mrs Soane as a small boudoir where she would retire having had breakfast served to her in her Bedroom (which would eventually become Soane’s Model Room). Here she would go through her correspondence and accounts, and receive the cook in order to give her instructions as to the menu for the evening’s dinner and any necessary shopping. Off it lay a closet with a washbasin. An exciting discovery has been the very rare survival in this small closet of wallpaper printed to imitate blue and white Chinese tiles. Although contemporary images do not survive of this room, the 1835 Description of the Museum describes how it was decorated:
The Morning Room …is so light and cheerful, so appropriately furnished as a retirement suited either for the purposes of study or of confidential intercourse, that it immediately struck us as the beau idéal of …domestic heaven…The walls are hung with books of painted lore – that universal language which can be read by every eye, and carry pleasure and instruction to every heart. Attention will be first drawn to two portraits on either side of the door, in which we perceive a strong family likeness. That to the left (an elderly lady of most benign aspect) is the mother of Sir John Soane, who sat for this portrait in her eighty-fourth year: the handsome youth to the right is his eldest son…So happy is the variety of pictures, that few persons can examine them without finding (beside the general admiration they must excite) someone peculiarly adapted to their own choice.
The paintings, which were densely hung in this room, included portraits of family members and subjects that interested Mrs Soane. Apart from these, J M W Turner’s watercolour of The Refectory at Kirkstall Abbey hung here, along with a series of prints by J Hamilton Mortimer showing Shakespearean characters. The room was also elegantly furnished. Following Eliza Soane’s death on 22 November 1815, Soane kept the room much as she had left it, although certain paintings were added such as The Smoking Room at Chelsea by George Jones, 1834. Soane also placed an Indian ivory table in the Morning Room. As with the other rooms of the second floor, following Soane’s death, this room became part of the Curator’s apartment. Later still it became the Museum Secretary’s office. As part of the reinstatement of this room the paintings and furniture will be returned to their locations at the time of Soane’s death in January 1837.