Sir John Soane’s architecture has enjoyed a revival of interest over the last seventy years, yet Soane as a collector—the strategy behind and motivation for Soane’s bequest to the nation—has remained largely unexplored. While Soane referred to the display of objects in his house and museum as “studies for my own mind,” he never explained what he meant by this, and the ambiguity surrounding his motivation remains perennially fascinating.
This book sheds light on a side of Soane’s personality unfamiliar to most students of his life and work by examining key strands in his collection and what they reveal about Soane and the psychology of collecting. Topics include the display of antiquities; his fascination with ruins, both literal and figurative; his singular response to Gothic architecture; and his investment in modern British painting and sculpture. These aspects are bookended by an introductory biographical chapter that highlights the ways in which his family and career informed his collecting habits as well as an epilogue that analyses the challenges of turning a private house and collection into a public museum.