Gorgeous Palaces

I know we’ve now slipped into May, but somehow I felt I had a few loose ends to tie up after my blog on April anniversaries, and today was the right time to do it.

For the first time ever I visited Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn, primarily because I wanted to see the Charlotte Bronte exhibition before it ends on Saturday. The museum is the actual house in which the architect Sir John Soane lived, and, although there is absolutely no evidence that Charlotte Bronte ever visited the house, the exhibition is, so to speak, at home here because the interior of the house has remained unchanged since Sir John Soane’s death in 1837.  In other words, it is much the same as it would have been if Charlotte had seen it on one of her visits to London.

While this is very much a small scale exhibition, there are nevertheless some interesting items on loan from the Bronte home in Haworth, including a dress Charlotte wore in London and her reading glasses.

However, the museum is also home to a rather larger exhibition.  Sir John Soane was a great admirer of Shakespeare, often going to the theatre to see a Shakespeare play and collecting numerous associated artifacts.  He was the proud owner of no fewer than three Shakespeare folios, and apparently he often recited Shakespeare in his speeches about architecture, referring to Prospero’s

“cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples”  (Tempest Act IV Scene I)

And this leads me on to the final theme:

At the end of the Shakespeare exhibition there is a display of Soane’s plans for Dulwich Picture Gallery, which he built in 1811. Apart from the many famous works it now contains, the gallery’s main claim to fame is that it was the first purpose built museum for art in the country, and, so far as I can see, functionality seems to have been uppermost in Soane’s mind when he designed it: the gallery is a long, flattish sort of affair, so there is absolutely no way in which it can be described as having “cloud-capp’d towers”.   In fact, I’d go so far as to say that externally  it isn’t at all ornate or even prepossessing, but surely inside, with its linked galleries and lofty skylights it has to be a “gorgeous palace” dedicated to the display of wonderful pictures – and, in this respect, it’s just like the Soane Museum itself.

Now, as it happens, this is my local museum and it is here, in my mind’s eye, that my heroine Julie attends Saturday morning art classes in her first murder case,  The Art of Killing.  

Unfortunately, for such a visual post, there is a distinct lack of pictorial input as neither Dulwich Picture Gallery nor the Soane Museum allows photography inside, and I haven’t even got a picture of Julie in creative mode!  So I’m afraid the best I can do is a detail from the facade of the Soane Museum.

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May 3, 2016 · 5:21 pm

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