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drawing

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1862,0614.626

  • Description

    The Townley Gallery and the erecting of the new gallery; in foreground construction materials and figures, including labourers, beyond at right scaffolding across front of new gallery, and at left of centre the Townley Gallery. 1828 Watercolour

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1828
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 192 millimetres
    • Width: 284 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed: "London g. Scharf d" and inscribed and dated: "B. New gallery erecting July 1828" and inscribed with notes Verso inscribed: "Mr E. Farrow" and "Sir Frideric Ma[cl?]en, Manuscript room"
  • Curator's comments

    Catalogue entry from J.Kierkuc-Bielinski, 'George Scharf', exh. Soane Museum, 2009 (no. 59):
    The Townley Gallery of the British Museum, seen towards the left of this view, had been built in order to house the collection of classical sculpture amassed by Charles Townley (1737-1805), Trustee of the British Museum, and which entered its collections in 1805. Amongst these works was the Roman copy of the famous Greek statue of the Discobolus and the Townley Vase, which inspired Keats to write ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, in 1819. Scharf produced a drawing showing part of the interior of this gallery with Townley’s sculptures on display (1862, 0614.632). The building of the Gallery was located near the north-west corner of the old Montagu House. This old seventeenth-century building can be seen on the far left of the drawing. As the collections of the British Museum expanded rapidly, in some part caused by the Napoleonic Wars through the acquisition of objects that were formerly in French collections, such as the renowned Rosetta Stone, Old Montagu House and the various structures that had grown around it such as the Townley Gallery, proved too small for the Museum. In 1823, Smirke began work on creating a totally new building to house the Museum’s collections. The new British Museum would become the most imposing example of Greek Revival architecture in London. Scharf notes the scale of the undertaking on the recto of this drawing: ‘There will be forty four columns to the façade and 10, 000 tons of stone used as Mr. Baker the builder told me’. The work was accomplished in stages, with the King’s Library built first from 1823 to 1826, followed by the West Wing, which we see in this view. However, the West Wing was not fully completed until the Townley Gallery was pulled down in 1846. The large open space in the foreground of this view, formerly part of the garden of Montagu House and used as a builders’ yard as work on Smirke’s building progressed, would later become the site of the British Museum’s Reading Room designed by Sydney Smirke, (1798-1877), the brother and pupil of Sir Robert Smirke who had started the rebuilding of the Museum.

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  • Location

    Not on display (British Roy PV)

  • Exhibition history

    1992 Jun-Nov, Essen, Villa Hugel, London 1800-38, no. 379
    2009 Mar-Jun, London, Sir John Soane Museum, George Scharf

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1862

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1862,0614.626

The Townley Gallery and the erecting of the new gallery; in foreground construction materials and figures, including labourers, beyond at right scaffolding across front of new gallery, and at left of centre the Townley Gallery. 1828 Watercolour

Recto

The Townley Gallery and the erecting of the new gallery; in foreground construction materials and figures, including labourers, beyond at right scaffolding across front of new gallery, and at left of centre the Townley Gallery. 1828 Watercolour

Image description

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