Exhibition | Peace Breaks Out! London and Paris in the Summer of 1814

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 4, 2014


Henry Parke, Drawing of the Arc de Triomphe, 1819
(London: Sir John Soane’s Museum)
Click here for a higher resolution image.

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From the press release (9 April 2014) for the upcoming exhibition:

Peace Breaks Out! London and Paris in the Summer of 1814
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, 20 June – 13 September 2014

In the centenary year of the start of the First World War, Sir John Soane’s Museum presents Peace Breaks Out! an exhibition focusing on the summer of 1814, when Europe celebrated peace after the Treaty of Paris following the fall of Napoleon. Displaying over 100 rare pieces from the museum and private collections, the exhibition will explore this pivotal moment in the history of Europe, through the eyes of its contemporaries. Pieces on show include paintings and prints created for the festivities held in London and across the United Kingdom to mark the Treaty; drawings of Paris demonstrating the architectural changes that took place under Napoleon’s government; Sir John Soane’s collection of Napoleonica (objects belonging to Napoleon and his closest collaborators); and a quirky, satirical depiction of Englishmen visiting Paris, as seen by the French.

Dr Jerzy J. Kierkuć-Bieliński, Exhibitions Curator at Sir John Soane’s Museum, explains: “The Peace of 1814 and the subsequent congress of Vienna in 1815, after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, laid the geo-political framework of the European Empires that would dominate the Continent and much of the globe up to the outbreak of the First World War. The Allies who celebrated the signing of the Treaty as guests of the Prince Regent in London, would, almost exactly one hundred years later face each on the battlefields of Europe—this time as enemies. In many ways, to understand the origins of the First World War, one has to look at the events of 1814 and the false promise of lasting peace that it offered.”

Sir John Soane’s drawings of Paris, commissioned by his clerk Henry Parke during their second visit in 1819, will be on display. The collection documents Soane’s personal study of the vast architectural changes to the French capital under Napoleon’s empire, especially the introduction of public space. Soane saw the French ruler as a great example of a self-made man, and he appreciated Napoleon as a patron of the arts, and keen supporter of architecture. From the Arc de Triomphe, to Place Vendôme, the drawings illustrate how Napoleon’s architectural innovations made a great impression on Soane.


Cossia, Portrait of Napoleon, 1797 (London: Sir John Soane’s Museum)

Items from Soane’s collection of Napoleonica—bronze medals commemorating the significant events of Napoleon’s reign and a sword thought to have been presented to Napoleon by one of his officers—will also be on display. The collection of Napoleonica features rare books from Soane’s library, including an exquisite hand-coloured volume by Napoleon’s personal architects and interior designers, Percier and Fontaine—arguably the most famous interior designers of the time. The volume, a gift to the future Empress Joséphine, illustrates a selection of late 15th- and 16th-century villas and palaces in and around Rome. The influence of Percier and Fontaine’s designs are most evident in Soane’s designs of his Library-Dining Room in the Museum. This section of the exhibition is completed by Sir John Soane’s ‘Napoleonic Ring’, a chased gold ring containing a lock of the Emperor’s hair, and a portrait from 1797 of a young Napoleon—aged just 27—the youngest portrait of Napoleon in any British collection, painted by a little known Italian artist named Cossia.

French caricatures of the British visitors to Paris in that summer of 1814 will complete the exhibition, presenting a view of French-British relations at the time. Paris had been cut off during Napoleon’s reign but in 1814 saw visitors flooding the French capital. The image portrayed is not flattering: the Parisians saw the British as awkwardly dressed, glutinous, obsessed with bodily functions and prone to the charms of Parisian courtesans. Such scenes, including the English gawping at the treasures amassed in the Louvre, dining at the elegant Café des Milles Colonnes or strolling in Place Vendôme would have been familiar to Soane, who travelled to Paris shortly after the fall of Napoleon.

This is the first exhibition devoted to marking a significant but somewhat overshadowed bicentenary. In 1914, plans were underway to mark the centenary of the Peace Treaty in 1814, but the outbreak of the Great War meant that these plans were abandoned as Europe (and much of the globe) spiralled once again into conflict.

Historian Alexander Rich, co-curator, comments: “We are now as far away from the outbreak of the First World War as the protagonists of that conflict were from the Peace Celebrations of 1814. This exhibition looks for the first time at a very specific time in the artistic production of Europe, and offers a different, perhaps hidden perspective, on the events that have shaped the world as we know it today.”

Peace Breaks Out! is part of the London Festival of Architecture. A series of events, special curator-led tours giving unprecedented access to unique and rarely seen architectural models in the Soane’s collection will be offered as part of the Festival.

Display | Capital Investment: Sir John Soane’s Model of Tyringham Hall

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 4, 2014

In conjunction with the London Festival of Architecture:

Capital Investment: Sir John Soane’s Model of Tyringham Hall, Buckinghamshire
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, 3–28 June 2014

image1_4327Sir John Soane revived the use of architectural models in Britain in his teaching and in his architectural practice. One of the more beautiful architectural models in Sir John Soane’s Museum is for Tyringham Hall, Buckinghamshire. Made by Joseph Parkins, c. 1793–94, in box wood, the highly detailed model was commissioned by Soane to present to his client William Praed, a Fleet Street banker. Soane designed and executed his country house from 1792 to 1800, and this model is an exceptional survival of a Soane Office ‘presentation model’ given to a client to explain volume, the arrangement of rooms and the play of light in the completed building (the model opens to reveal the interior arrangements of rooms and staircases). This is a rare opportunity to see this highly detailed presentation model which is not usually on display to the public. A model by a contemporary architect will be shown alongside to demonstrate the use importance of architectural models in today’s architectural practice.

Abraham Thomas as New Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum

Posted in museums by Editor on June 4, 2014

I’m afraid this posting should have run six months ago. The press release dates to last July, though Thomas has been in the position only since December.

It perhaps, however, can serve as a useful reminder of how many things slip by me. Particularly with summer here  (or at least summer in the northern hemisphere) and so many of you doing fascinating things around the world, please don’t be bashful in writing to share news. All the best for the next few months, -Craig Hanson

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Abraham-Thomas-soanesThe Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum are pleased to announce the appointment of Abraham Thomas as the next Director of the Museum. He will take up the appointment on 3 December 2013. Announcing the appointment, Guy Elliott, Chairman of the Trustees, said, “The Trustees have appointed Abraham Thomas to be their next Director on the unanimous recommendation of their search committee, which included senior external members, as well as four Trustees. The decision has been endorsed by the Royal Academy of Arts, as required by our governing legislation.

“Mr Thomas comes to us from The Victoria and Albert Museum, where, as Curator of Designs, he was responsible for, amongst other exhibitions, the brilliant and much praised Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary. He joins the Soane Museum at a particularly creative and challenging time in its history. The immediate priority is to complete the museum’s acclaimed Opening up the Soane project, which has already delivered a new exhibition gallery, conservation studios, disability access, and shop. Sir John Soane’s private apartments, not seen since 1837,
will feature prominently once the current phase concludes in 2014.

The new Director will build upon recent successes to lead The Soane’s talented staff and volunteer force in realizing the fullest potential of the museum as an ‘academy’, as Soane described it, that is, a centre of learning. The work and reputation of Sir John Soane himself, the unique atmosphere of his former home and its unparalleled collections have the ‘permanently magical’ power to inspire and inform all those who seek knowledge and understanding of the story of architecture.”

Responding, Mr Thomas said “I am delighted to be appointed the next Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum. It’s a great honour to be invited to lead this unique institution, and I look forward to building upon the fantastic work carried out by my predecessor, Tim Knox, and the staff, in order to create an exciting future for the Museum. I have always considered the Soane to be an extraordinary container of ideas, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of working closely with the staff and Trustees to explore boldly Sir John Soane’s original vision for his building and wide-ranging collections—a legacy which I believe can offer immeasurable relevance for today’s world.”

Abraham Thomas was Curator of Designs, and lead curator for architecture, at the V&A. During his eight years at the Museum he made an outstanding contribution to the public programme, working across historical and contemporary architecture and design with responsibility for the V&A’s collection of approximately 200,000 design drawings, maquettes and models. This collection ranges in scope from the 16th century to the present day and across disciplines such as architecture, furniture, sculpture, metalwork and ceramics, all of which are represented at the Soane.

Thomas has played a key role as lead curator in the V&A + RIBA Architecture Partnership. In addition to curating such acclaimed exhibitions as Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary and 1:1 – Architects Build Small Spaces, he was the curator of the V&A’s bicentenary retrospective on the 19th-century designer, Owen Jones, A Higher Ambition and co-curator of an expanded version which later toured internationally. He has subsequently published related research on Owen Jones, who, like Soane, broke the mould by proposing a modern style unique to the nineteenth century, as well as on James Wild (curator of Sir John Soane’s Museum from 1878 to his death in 1892) and other key 19th-century artists working in the Middle East. Thomas succeeds Tim Knox, who was with the Soane for almost eight years before being appointed Director and Marlay Curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

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