The Model Room
A computer-generated view by Curatorial Assistant John Bridges demonstrating how the Model Stand will appear with all of Soane's models arranged as they were in 1837
Originally, this room was Eliza Soane’s Bedchamber and Soane piously preserved it as she had it after her death on 22 November 1815. However, in 1834, he converted the Bedchamber into the Model Room to house his ever-expanding collection of architectural models, which had been displayed throughout the house and, from 1828, in an earlier Model Room in the attic (go to the OUTS Phase II main page for a contemporary view of the Model Room). Soane considered architectural models to be very important for teaching; he used them often to illustrate his lectures at the Royal Academy, showing the great monuments of the classical past, and to explain his architectural designs.
The centrepiece of the reinstated Model Room will once more be the Model Stand displaying historical architectural models from the collection – a type of architectural museum in miniature. The 9ft long stand, in deal painted bronze green had brass columns which were supplied in 1826 by Messrs Johnston, Brookes and Company. On the lower shelf was a large cork model of Pompeii and another cork model of Soane’s favourite classical building, the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. Above this, on the upper shelf, further models were displayed including plaster models of the Pantheon, Rome, and the Parthenon, Athens, by the French maker François Fouquet, and further cork models including the Doric temples at Paestum to the south of Naples. The base of the stand contained drawers, which held Soane’s collection of drawings by other architects, including Sir William Chambers, William Kent and James Wyatt. The two sides of the base shelves held models of Soane’s buildings, including the Board of Trade and Privy Council Offices at Whitehall.
The juxtaposition of models representing buildings from different geographical locations and dating to different periods can be compared to a capriccio or architectural fantasy. The Model Room also acted as a type of ‘alternative Grand Tour’ for Soane’s pupils and clerks who were unable to travel to Italy or Greece to see these buildings for themselves.
The walls of the Model Room were hung with architectural watercolours of Soane’s buildings by Joseph Michael Gandy. The two window recesses were lined with bookcases, which also contained a number of chessmen in biscuit porcelain modelled by the sculptor John Flaxman. The windows had two early seventeenth-century Netherlandish stained glass panels showing Plaiting the Crown of Thorns on our Lord’s Head and The Scourging of Christ. Following Soane’s death in 1837, this room was converted into part of the Curator’s apartment (up until 1945 the Museum’s Curator lived on site). It later became the Director’s Office. The model stand was cut down towards the end of the nineteenth century and moved into No.12, and some of the stained glass panels which decorated the windows were lost. Of the original decoration of this room, the Carrara marble fireplace, the surviving stained glass and the bookcases remain. The models and the model stand, which has already been restored to its former size, will be restored to their former locations, as will the paintings.