The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 20 Covent Garden, Kingsway, Lincoln's Inn Fields

Soane Museum 2

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On leaving the Hogarth Room we descend the staircase on the right, leading to the basement of the Museum. To the left, at the foot of the steps (interesting view westwards), are the MONK'S CELL, with a Flemish wood-carving and a German triptych (both 15th century), and the MONK'S PARLOUR, containing plaster casts, models, pottery from South America, Spain, etc., and an iron reliquary of the 15th century. Retracing our steps, we cross the corridor and enter the CRYPT, containing cinerary urns, casts, antiquities of various kinds, and statues. Here also are studies by Flaxman, and the original model of Banks's sleeping figure of Penelope Boothby (at Ashbourne). From the Crypt we enter the SEPULCHRAL CHAMBER (lighted from above), which is devoted to the Sarcophagus of Seti I., King of Egypt circa 1370 B.C. and father of Rameses the Great. This remarkable chest was found by Belzoni in 1817 in a tomb in the valley of Biban-el-Mulak, on the west bank of the Nile, almost opposite the ancient city of Thebes. It is made from a monolithic block of aragonite or calcite, 9 feet 4 inches long, 3 feet 8 inches wide (near the shoulders), and 2 feet 8 inches deep (at the head), the sides being semi -transparent and 2+-3+ inches thick. Some fragments of the cover are preserved in the Cork Model Room. The sarcophagus is ornamented inside and out with figures and hieroglyphics from the �Book of the Gates,� illustrating the journey of the Sun-God Ra through the divisions of the Underworld corresponding to the twelve hours of the night. Passing a mummy case, we enter a room with models of ancient sepultures. To the south-east of this is the room known as the CATACOMBS, with good funeral urns. This is adjoined on the east by an ANTE-ROOM, whence we return through the Flaxman Room and the Corridor and re-ascend to the ground-floor. Turning to the right at the head of the staircase, we pass through two galleries, containing Roman busts, sculpture, vases and urns, models, casts, and a bust of Soane by Chantrey, and enter the NEW STUDENTS� ROOM, in which are hung Turner's Admiral Tromp's barge entering the Texel after his defeat of Blake in 1652, and Canaletto's View of the Grand Canal (bought from the Fonthill Collection in 1807, a masterpiece). Here also are Les Noces by Watteau, The Thames below Greenwich by Callcott, and two water-colours by Turner (Kirkstall Abbey, Valley of Aosta). The ANTE-ROOM to the south contains an ivory table and chairs from the palace of Tippu Sahib and other Oriental art objects. This ante-room leads to the BREAKFAST ROOM, a charming little apartment, lighted, decorated, and arranged in a highly original manner. Its contents include beautifully illuminated manuscript, a richly mounted pistol once belonging to Napoleon, and a small portrait of Napoleon by Francesco Goma, painted in 1797, arid perhaps the earliest extant. We now ascend to the first floor, passing a small recess with a cast of the bust of Shakespeare in the church at Stratford-on-Avon. On the wells of the staircase are pictures and sculptures. The SOUTH DRAWING ROOM, with a glass loggia affording a view of Lincoln's Inn Fields, contains portraits (e.g. Sir John Soane, by west Owen), engravings, and drawings (by Soane and his master George Dance). The choice Capece Latro Collection of Antique Gems occupies a glass-case in front of the central window and other cases in the NORTH DRAWING ROOM, the remaining contents of which include designs by Soane; a portrait of Soane's sons, by Owen; a watch belonging to Sir Christopher Wren, probably given to him by Queen Anne (case in right window); and a jewelled device said to have belonged to Charles I (left window). The drawer-cases contain drawings by Robert Adam. The upper part of the house is private.