Sir John Soane's Museum
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Sir John Soane's Museum information
This little museum is one of the most atmospheric and fascinating in London.The building is the beautiful, bewitching home of architect Sir John Soane (1753–1837), which he left brimming with his vast architectural and archaeological collection, as well as intriguing personal effects and curiosities. The museum represents his exquisite and eccentric tastes, persuasions and proclivities.
A famous Regency architect and professor of architecture at the Royal Academy, Soane was a country bricklayer’s son, most famous for designing the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery . In his work and life, he drew on classical ideas picked up while on an 18th-century grand tour of Italy. After his marriage with the wealthy Elizabeth Smith, known as Eliza Soane, the architect built his house-museum at No 13 Lincoln’s Inn Sq, and eventually bought the one next door at No 12, which now serves as an exhibition and education space.
The heritage-listed house is largely as it was when Soane died and is itself a main part of the attraction. It has a canopy dome that brings light right down to the crypt, a colonnade filled with statuary and a picture gallery where paintings are stowed behind each other on folding wooden panes. This is where Soane’s choicest artwork is displayed, including paintings by Canaletto, architectural drawings by Christopher Wren and Robert Adam, and the original Rake’s Progress , William Hogarth’s set of satirical cartoons of late-8th-century London lowlife. Among Soane’s more unusual acquisitions are the sarcophagus of the Egyptian Pharo Seti I; a mock-up of a monk’s cell in the basement of the house, and his precious Model Room, located in his private apartments at the 2nd floor of the house, in which a large portion of his collection of original architectural models of classical buildings is on display.
Mobile phones must be switched off and photography is not allowed. Tours (£10) depart at 11.30am Tuesday and Friday, at 3.30pm Wednesday and Thursday and at 11am Saturday. The evening of the first Tuesday of each month, when the house is lit by candles, is very popular and sees long queues.