A unique collection of models of the great buildings and monuments of ancient Greece, Rome and the Near East, made by the exceptional architectural model maker and artist François Fouquet, will go on public display at Sir John Soane's Museum in London in a special exhibition: Wonders of the Ancient World: François Fouquet's Model Masterpieces to open in July.
As the Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy from 1806-1837, Soane taught scientific and artistic principles of construction and to illustrate the history of architectural development he collected architectural models of celebrated antique buildings. The Fouquet models are an important part of Soane's fascinating collection which was amassed over his lifetime and gives a unique insight into the world of 18th and 19th century architecture and construction.
Following in the footsteps of his model-maker father Jean-Pierre (1752-1829), François Fouquet produced meticulously detailed and fragile plaster-of-Paris restorations, showing the greatest buildings of the ancient world as they might have appeared when first constructed. Archaeological excavations carried out in Italy from the 1730s generated renewed interest in these buildings and folio editions and models were produced to fill the demand. Soane's Fouquet models were made between 1790 and 1830 for architects and collectors in Paris, using techniques which remain a mystery.
Soane bought his 20 Fouquet models from the architect Edward Cresy in 1834 for £100. They include representations of: the Temple of Venus at Baalbec; the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Arch of Hadrian and Tower of Winds in Athens; the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world); The Temple of Augustus at Pola in Istria (now in Croatia); the Temple of Neptune at Palmyra; the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli; the Pantheon and the Temple of Fortuna Virillis in Rome.
Tim Knox, Director of Sir John Soane's Museum, explains: 'Models were extremely important to Soane, not only as a way of bringing ancient buildings back to life for his students but also to guide the construction of buildings he had designed.
'His Fouquet models are as rare as they are beautiful, with few others surviving. We are delighted to be able to bring back to public display, for the first time in five years, all twenty of Soane's exquisite collection of these amazing models, which form part of the largest collection of historical architectural models in the country - Soane's own miniature architectural museum.
'The plaster models, which are constructed over a metal armature, fixed to wooden bases and enclosed in glass domes, are incredibly detailed with a startlingly crisp finish. We still don't know exactly how Fouquet was able to produce such beautifully clear detail on these models but it's easy to see why Soane treasured them so much and how important they were to his collection, which essentially brought the Grand Tour to London."
Soane's Model Room, which began in the attic of No 13 in 1828, but by 1835 had moved to the front room on the second floor, will be restored as part of the Museum's £7million Opening up the Soane project, currently underway.
From spring 2013, Soane's Fouquet models to be on permanent public display in the way he had intended them for the first time since 1850, when his Model Room was broken up. Once again, they will be presented in a didactic arrangement, placing these perfect depictions of ancient buildings in their pristine original state, alongside cork models showing the great buildings of Rome as ruins, as well as models of Soane's own buildings.
Wonders of the Ancient World: François Fouquet's Model Masterpieces will be on at Sir John Soane's Museum in London from 15 July to 24 September 2011. For more information, visit www.soane.org or call 020 7405 2107.