Sir Robert Smirke, Seat proposed for the Gallery of Antiquities, a drawing

The British Museum, London, England, 21 November 1835

Furniture for the new building

The architect Robert Smirke was a follower of the Greek Revival movement. He believed that public buildings should have the dignity and simplicity of classical Greek architecture. In particular, he believed that a museum should look and feel to its visitors like an ancient Greek temple. It was with this in mind that he designed the present British Museum building, with its colonnade lined with Grecian pillars and its porticos facing the central courtyard.

In all his work, Smirke paid the greatest attention to detail. Even the furniture for the new building had to be in the classical Greek style. This is his design for seats to be placed in the gallery of Antiquities (Greek, Roman and Egyptian) in the West Wing, now Rooms 69-73. They were simple, elegant and long enough (9 feet or about 270 cm) to seat several people.However, since they were only 1 foot 6 inches wide, they cannot have allowed visitors to sit comfortably for very long. Perhaps this was Smirkes' intention?

Visitors to the Museum today may notice similar, though shorter, benches in various rooms. In the 1980s the Museum's design department used this drawing to reproduce Smirke's original benches.

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Height: 390.000 mm
Width: 200.000 mm

Museum number

Archives CE48/2


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