Eliza Soane, Sir John Soane's Museum, June 2017

Photography by Katie Treggiden

Photography by Katie Treggiden

As part of their bid for Museum of the Year 2017, Sir John Soane's Museum commissioned to me to do an 'Instagram Takeover' running their feed for a week as part of a series of takeovers on the theme of 'Inspired by Soane.' For my week, I decided to look into the role that Sir John Soane's wife, Eliza Soane, had played in his life and work. I took original photographs inside the museum, undertook secondary research and met with the museum's curator to put together a series of posts telling the story of Eliza Soane and her influence on her husband, his career and those who seek to follow in his footsteps. “Katie shows an infectious enthusiasm for learning and research, approaching subjects in a really fresh way, resulting in new angles every time. Her professionalism and unique insight is coupled with a warm and generous nature that makes her a pleasure to work with.” – Adam Thow, Barbican / Sir John Soane’s Musuem

Image captions left to right:

Sir John Soane took one Miss Elizabeth Smith to the theatre on 10 January 1784 and was instantly smitten. The collection of her own books in Sir John Soane house attests to her intellect and she quickly became his confidant and his friend as well as, on 21 August 1784, his wife. #InspiredBySoane #InspiredByElizaSoane

Eliza Soane kept notes about her daily life in these tiny diaries, covered in marbled paper much like her husband’s, from which we know of her philanthropic activities. She often visited children in the nearby Foundling Hospital with her friend Sarah Smith. The Foundling Hospital cared for and educated 25,000 abandoned children between 1741 and 1954. #InspiredBySoane #InspiredByElizaSoane

Conspicuous by her absence, Eliza Soane’s death just two years after the couple moved into No. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields can be felt throughout the home where Sir John Soane lived without her for 22 years. On the second anniversary of her funeral, he wrote in his diary “Eliza amata vale! – my wounds bleed afresh – more than at the moment of dissolution adieu adieu – we shall never meet again!” This lock of hair was presented to him shortly after she died as a keepsake. #InspiredBySoane #InspiredByElizaSoane

Sir John Soane left his wife’s bedroom untouched for nineteen years after her death, only converting it into a space to house his extensive collection of architectural models towards the end of his life in 1834 – 1835. At the same time he created the oratory off his own bedroom, which seems to be a shrine to his wife, displaying paintings they acquired together, a stained glass panel depicting the hermit St Arsenius and an white urn believed to have been painted by Eliza. #InspiredBySoane #InspiredByElizaSoane