Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Museums, Public Buildings and Galleries - Soane Museum

Soane Museum, The ... Admission free to general visitors on Thursdays and Fridays during the months of April, May and June in each year; and likewise on Tuesdays, from the first of February to the last in August, for the accommodation of foreigners, persons making a short stay in London, artists and those visiting the Museum in the months first mentioned, and to whom is may be considered proper that such favour should be conceded.

The Soane Museum, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, is a splendid suite of rooms, ornamented with paintings by Canaletti and Hogarth, and many eminent modern masters, and with designs by J. Soane himself. They are likewise enriched with a choice selection of Roman and Grecian specimens of architecture, Etruscan vases, Egyptian antiquities, &c.; particularly the alabaster sarcophagus, brought by the late enterprising traveller Belzoni from the ruins of Thebes. This unique collection was presented to the nation by the proprietor, in 1833, an act of Parliament having sanctioned the disposal of this valuable museum in its present form.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

SOANE MUSEUM, (Sir John Soane's Museum), 13, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, north side formed and founded in his own house by Sir John Soane, son of a bricklayer at Reading, and architect of the Bank of England, (d. 1837).  

"The Soane Museum is open to general yisitors on Thursdays and Fridays during the months of April, May, and June, in each year, and likewise on Taesdays, from the first in February to the last in August, for the accommodation of foreigners; persons making but a short stay in London; artists; and those who, from particular circumstances, may be prevented from visiting the Museum in the months first specified, and to whom it may be considered proper that such favour should be conceded.
"Persons desirous of obtaining Admission to the Museum can apply either to a Trustee, by letter to the Curator, or personally at the Museum a day or two before they desire to visit it; in the latter case, the applicant is expected to heave a card, containing the name and address of the party desiring admission, and the number of persons proposed to be introduced, or the same can be entered in a book kept for the purpose in the Hall, when, unless there appears to the Curator any satisfactory reason to the contrary, a Card of Admission for the next open day is forwarded by post to the given address.
"Access to the Books, Drawings, MSS., or permission to copy Pictures or other Works of Art, is to be obtained by special application to the Trustees or the Curator.

The house was built in 1812, and the collection is distributed over twenty-four rooms. There is much that is valuable, and a good deal not worth much. Every corner and passage is turned to account. On the north and west sides of the Picture-room are Cabinets, and on the south are Moveable Shutters, with sufficient space between for pictures. By this arrangement, the small space of 13 feet 8 inches in length, 12 feet 4 inches in breadth, and 19 feet 6 inches high, is rendered capable of containing as many pictures as a gallery of the same height, 45 feet long and 20 feet broad. Observe.- The Egyptian Sarcophagus, discovered by Belzoni, Oct. 19th, 1816, in a tomb in the valley of Beban el Malook, near Gournou. It is formed of one single piece of alabaster, or arragonite, measuring 9 feet 4 inches in length by 3 feet 8 inches in width, and 2 feet 8 inches in depth, and covered internally and externally with elaborate hieroglyphics. When a lamp is placed within it, the light shines through, though it is 2˝ inches in thickness. On the interior of the bottom is a full-length figure, representing the Egyptian Isis, the guardian of the dead. It was purchased by Soane, from Mr. Salt, in 1824, for 20001. The raised lid or cover, broken into nineteen fragments, lies beneath it. Sir Gardner Wilkinson considers that it is a cenotaph rather than a sarcophagus, and the name inscribed to be that of Osirei, father of Ramases the Great. -Sixteen original sketches and models, by Flaxman, including one of the few casts in plaster of the Shield of Achilles. Six original sketches and models by T. Banks, R.A., including the Boothby Monument, one of his finest works. A large collection of ancient gems, entaglios, &c., under glass, and in a very good light. Set of the Napoleon medals, selected by the Baron Denon for the Empress Josephine, and once in her possession. Sir Christopher Wren's watch. Carved and gilt ivory table and four ivory chairs, formerly in Tippoo Saib's palace at Seringapatam. Richly mounted pistol, said to have been taken by Peter the Great from the Boy, Commander of the Turkish army at Azof, 1696, and presented by the Emperor Alexander to Napoleon, at the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 Napoleon took it to St. Helena, from whence it was brought by a French officer, to whom he had presented it. The original copy of the Gerusalemme Liberate, in the handwriting of Tasso. First four folio editions of Shakspeare, (J. P. Kemble's copies). A folio of designs for Elizabethan and James I. houses by John Thorpe, an architect of those reigns. Fauntleroy's Illustrated copy of Pennant's London ; purchased by Soane for 650 guineas. Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles, illuminated by Giulio Clovio for Cardinal Grimani. Three Canaletti's-one A View on the Grand Canal of Venice, extremely fine. The Snake in the Grass, or Love unloosing the Zone of Beauty, by Sir Joshua Reynolds; purchased at the sale of the Marchioness of Thomond's pictures, for 5001. The Rake's Progress, by Hogarth, a series of eight pictures purchased by Soane in 1802 for 5981-1. The Rake comes to his Fortune ; 2. The Rake as a Fine Gentleman ; 3. The Rake in a Bagnio; 4. The Rake Arrested ; 5. The Rake's Marriage ; 6. The Rake at the Gaming Table 7. The Rake in Prison; 8. The Rake in Bedlam. The Election, by Hogarth, a series of four pictures ; purchased by Soane, at Mrs. Garrick's sale in l823,for 1732l. 10s. Van Tromp's Barge entering the Texel, by J. M. W. Turner, R.A. Portrait of Napoleon in 1797, by Francesco Gains. Miniature of Napoleon, painted at Elba in 1814, by Isabey. In the Dining-room is a portrait of Soane, by Sir T. Lawrence and in the Gallery under the dome, a bust of him by Sir F. Chantrey. 

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

[ ... back to main menu for this book]

Soane Museum. 13, Lincoln’s-inn-fields—A collection of curiosities and pictures formed by the late Sir John Soane, the eminent architect, and given by him to the nation, together with a large sum of money for the support of the museum in perpetuity. The trustees have framed somewhat arbitrary restrictions as to the days and hours during which the public can have the advantage of inspecting their own property, and as an inevitable result this most interesting collection is less generally known than it deserves to be. Intending visitors must either apply personally or by letter to the curator a day or two before they propose to visit the collection, and even then certain frivolous, not to say vexatious, regulations must be complied with. Hogarth is here seen at his strongest in the series of pictures known as “The Rake’s Progress,” the truest and most tremendous work of any satirist since the days of Juvenal himself; and the great master is seen in his broader and more distinctly humorous view in his “Election” pictures. In addition to the Hogarths is a fine example of Sir Joshua Reynolds, “The Snake in the Grass” ; three views in Venice by Canaletto; a remarkable Watteau; and a Fuseli. A sarcophagus discovered by Belzoni, the first of the Egyptian explorers, at Thebes; ivory furniture from Seringapatam; a watch reputed to have been the property of Sir Christopher Wren; and a collection of gems and cameos, may be mentioned amongst the omnium gatherum which makes up Sir John Soane’s somewhat bizarre collection.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

SOANE'S [MUSEUM] 13 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS ... Antiquities, curiosities and pictures. Open from 11 to 5 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in February and March; and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, in April, May, June, July and August. Admission free.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895