Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Sir John Soane, and the Royal Academy

What do these places have in common? Synchronicity.  We went to the Royal Academy to see the annual Summer Exhibition featuring contemporary artists’ work in paint, collage, ceramics, sculpture, print, photography and mixed media.  The vast space, high ceilings and enormous rooms of Burlington House were chock-o-block with new work hung and organized by contemporary artists who are themselves masters of their field.  It was an enormous show.  The pieces are for sale–at reasonable prices for the most part–and selling.  All the red dots testified to the British buying public’s taste for fresh work by upcoming artists.

One smaller room was hung with woven pieces by Grayson Perry.  I took a photo of one and then was politely admonished by a “warder” that photos are not allowed.  Mr. Perry’s work is amazing.  Huge tapestry-like pieces, colorful and amusing with a bite.  This series comments on British society and the gentry’s need to pay more taxes. Sound familiar!

Sir John Soane, an eminent architect of the 19th C, was a member of the Royal Academy, only one of his many titles, and was himself a brilliant collector and architect and painter.  Yesterday we went to his home(s) in Holborn an area just north of Covent Garden in London central.  He and his wife owned three adjacent row houses in which they and their two sons lived amongst Sir John’s collections.  Happily these homes are essentially as the Soane family lived in them; the collections as Sir John arranged them.  This is a rare case as most of the homes of famous people bear little or no resemblance to their original owner’s taste or possessions.

Sir John collected many things which is a great understatement. But you can read more about it all if you’re interested. I was bowled over when I entered a small room “The Paintings Room” and saw before me a large Canaletto so close I could have touched it if I dared. Above were two smaller ones. “Yes,” the warder assured me, “these are originals. There are no copies in this collection.” He then went on to display the complete set of Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress” guiding us through foolish Mr. Rake’s awful decline and death.

Finally, a triumph of ingenuity and proximity. Sir John purchased Seti I’s limestone sarcophagus when the British Museum in the 1880’s declined to do so. He paid 2000 pounds for this mammoth item, had it carted home and installed in a lower level portion of his home. (To put that purchase in a context: the home where the piece sits cost Soane 1400 pounds.) There it sits covered in hieroglyphs which were once highlighted with cobalt blue paste that was rubbed into the images which has long since faded. This is a masterpiece rarely seen outside museums. The warder said the British Museum couldn’t afford it because they had just purchased the Elgin Marbles! Poor Egypt! Poor Greece!

After viewing hundreds of marble fragments from Greece, Italy and who knows where, one marble cornucopia about 18″ long and 6″ high caught my eye. I was delighted to read that it came from Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s villa) outside Rome. I seem to have a psychic link to Hadrian!

Starving, we walked across the street and into Lincoln’s Inn Fields park and on to Fields for lunch. We sat outside overlooking the public tennis courts. No action–too hot, I think. Relaxing, I heard a young man encouraging his friends to sit outside as it was prettier than being inside. I watched the friendly banter and he turned to me and said “What are you drinking?” “Agua, pura agua,” I responded in Spanish–don’t ask me why–and then he proceeded to engage me in a charming discussion about where I was from and where he was from (France) and all in fluent Spanish which thankfully I was able to manage. Eventually he joined us and we had a fabulous long talk about Europe, France, and the U.S. Tomas is going to Detroit later this year. Detroit! Yikes! He’s employed in the automotive industry and his employer is sending him to Detroit–probably to uncover what not to do! Perhaps a visit to Seattle can be arranged??

And so, three venues somehow all linking themselves in my brain–synchronicity leading to unimagined connections and future adventures.