Experience Shakespeare through the eyes of Sir John Soane

A new exhibition coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare has opened at Sir John Soane’s Museum, focusing on Soane’s extensive Shakespeare collections. ‘The Cloud-Capped Towers’: Shakespeare in Soane’s Architectural Imagination presents the first four Folios of Shakespeare’s collected works, as well as the ways in which Soane and his family participated in the eighteenth century Shakespearean revival, and the influence of the Bard on Soane’s architecture.

The first room of the exhibition introduces the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, within the context of the 200th anniversary celebrations in 1816. The room visualises the intersection between literature and architecture, with a focus on the actor and manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, David Garrick, who helped popularise Shakespeare in Georgian London.


Robert Adam, Adam’s interior of the Drury Lane Theatre from Works in architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1779

The second room in the gallery considers Shakespeare in Soane’s architectural imagination. Between 1788-89 ‘The Shakespeare Gallery’, only the second purpose-built art gallery in England, was constructed in Pall Mall to designs by George Dance the Younger, Soane’s first architectural teacher and mentor. These designs later influenced Soane’s work on the Dulwich Picture Gallery – itself the first public art gallery in Britain.

The exhibition closes with a selection of Soane’s large-scale Royal Academy lecture drawings, allowing access to these striking images which can usually be viewed by appointment only.

‘The Cloud-Capped Towers’: Shakespeare in Soane’s Architectural Imagination
21 April – 8 October
Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP