Death and Memory

Eliza Soane – Sir John Soane’s beloved wife – died on 22 November 1815. Her husband Sir John never entirely recovered. This exhibition commemorates 200 years since her death, and examines the effect of this personal tragedy on Soane’s life and work.
Soane was a man fascinated with memorialisation, and was strongly concerned with creating a legacy and shaping memory through architecture. These ideas are seen throughout his career but Eliza’s death blurred the lines between the personal and the professional. Death and Memory looks at elements of Soane’s life – from his family and his home, to his collecting and architectural work – and highlights the recurring theme of mortality.

On display are rarely exhibited drawings for mausolea, funerary sculpture and monuments by architects such as Robert Adam, Piranesi, William Chambers, Nicholas Hawksmoor, John Flaxman and George Dance. These are shown alongside a design for a monument to the Duke of Wellington – one of the last drawings Soane’s architectural office created before his death.

Other highlights include original designs for the Soane family tomb which was built after Eliza’s death, and objects from ‘sealed receptacles’ – time-capsules which Soane sealed before his own death with strict instructions to open many decades later.