Phase III: The Ante-Room, Catacombs, Curved Link Passage and the Foyle Project Space

The third and final phase of the OUTS project will see further lost Soanean arrangements put back to their original 1837 appearance – in the heart of Soane’s museum in No.13.

When Soane moved from No.12 to No.13 Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1813, he rented his first house out to tenants. However, there was a brief period between 1819 and 1825-26 when Soane took back the large room at the rear of No.12 for his own use (originally his office in the 1790s) and turned it into a 'Picture Gallery'.  During that period he also (in about 1824) took over the area now called the 'Ante-Room' on the east side of the No.12 courtyard and re-built it as the ‘Lobby to the Breakfast Room’.  This meant that the tenant of No.12 occupied only the front part of the house.  

Later, when Soane had the chance to build his now celebrated Picture Room at the back of No.14, he returned the large gallery at the back of No.12 to the tenant of that house.  As he did not wish to sacrifice the ‘Lobby to the Breakfast Room’ (today’s Ante-Room) he constructed a curved link passage to by-pass it that would enable the tenant of No.12 to access the gallery.

When Soane died in 1837, No.12 continued to be rented out but in 1889-90 the then Curator of the Museum, James Wild, took back the Gallery at the rear of No. 12 for Museum use. He re-built it as the ‘New Picture Room’ and created a large arched opening that connected the New Picture Room to the Apollo Recess and Dome Area. This opening was made through a wall on which Soane had hung a number of casts around a large central bookcase and Wild re-located all these items to other interiors.  He then moved several large paintings from Soane’s Picture Room (the Canalettos for example) into the New Picture Room, to enable copyists to have easier access to them.  At the same time he demolished Soane’s curved link passage that went across the No. 12 courtyard.

Phase III of OUTS will see these lost arrangements put back to their original Soanean appearance. Access to the New Picture Room, which will become known as 'The Foyle Project Space', will be via doors replicating the appearance of the bookcase once in the centre of the west wall of the Apollo Recess and the statue of the Apollo Belvedere will once again be seen as Soane intended - against a backdrop of mirrored doors and an arrangement of plaster casts that will be returned to their original 1837 positions.

The adjacent curious, narrow ‘Lobby to the Breakfast Room’, which we now call the Ante-Room, will also be restored, its walls once again bristling with casts and an iron railing over which visitors’ will be able to look down into the catacombs with their Roman cinerary urns in the basement below.

The reinstatement of these lost spaces will not only allow us to fulfill the requirement that we preserve Soane’s house and collections as they were at the time of his death in accordance with his 1833 Act of Parliament but will encompass the final stage of our work to improve visitor access. The provision of a dedicated exhibition and learning space in the New Picture Room – the Foyle Project Space - will bring education and architectural practice back into the historic heart of the Museum, something that was a core part of what Sir John Soane intended when he built his house-museum.

Watercolour of the Ante Room area of the Museum

Watercolour view of the Ante-Room by Joseph Michael Gandy, 1826. Phase III of OUTS will see the original arrangement of plaster casts - including two large roundels by Thomas Banks - and an iron railing overlooking the Catacombs in the Basement below returned to their original appearance