Design for Chimney-Piece with Arched Overmantel Panel 

Creator(s):   Grinling Gibbons 1648-1721

Date:    Undated, but datable 1689-94

Accession Number:   SM 110/39

Dimensions:   459mm x 225mm

Materials:   Pen and russet-brown ink with green, grey-green,light blue and yellow washes, over graphite under drawing, with additions in graphite, and with later re-drawing of baseline and verticals of plinths in black ink; on laid paper

Location:   Sir John Soane's Museum

Credit Line (copyright notice for material) :   © Sir John Soane's Museum

Online Catalogue Entry :

Design for Chimney-Piece with Arched Overmantel Panel © Sir John Soane's Museum


Design for a chimney-piece with arched overmantel panel. The fire surround of this design would have been marble, and the vase on the mantelshelf (touched with light blue wash) real glass or ceramic. However, the other relief decoration of the overmantel would almost certainly have been in limewood. The fronds, drapery and drop of fruit and flowers are connected as a single motif and are uncoloured, as was usual for Gibbons’s limewood. The result would have been a relatively subdued colour scheme of white marble, near white limewood and a pale green wall covering on the overmantel.

Like other drawings in this group, the design includes the main room cornice, drawn here without hesitation as a large cove beneath a corona and cyma moulding, like the executed cornices in several of the smaller rooms in the king’s and queen’s apartments. Fire surround and overmantel are now brought together as a single feature of the room interior: a complete chimney-piece bay, reaching from floor to ceiling. The fire surround and its mantel shelf are steps in the progression upwards rather than self-contained units, to which an overmantel is added.

In technique this drawing, like others in the group, shows complete mastery of light and dark, through cast shadow and relief shading.

Literature: Wren Society, vol. IV, pl. 31, top.

Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation.

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