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Sir John Soanes and John Hunter at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London

Sir John Soanes House and the Hunterian Museum have at least two things in common. They are at opposite ends of the same London Square, and both house a collection of historical objects that informed a life’s work.

The Hunterian holds a large range of zoological specimens that have been prodded, examined and compared for reasons of medical exploration. Visitors to the museum may reflect on the scientific relevance of these objects and squirm at their macabre beauty and variety of forms. The volume of glass and light in the museum gives the ensemble the appearance of a grotesque genetic fusion of animal and crystal candelabra. Like modernist steam-punk. Refractions of pale anaemic body parts glitter around the space in mesmerasing arrrays.

In comparison, Soane’s personal collection on the north of Lincoln’s Inn Fields represents one man’s obsession with the picturesque. The objects presented are of antiquity but not always authentic. Plaster models of original classical details picked up on tour informed Soanes classical revivalist approach to the architecture that he produced. As in the Hunterian, reflections from the many mirrors purposefully placed around the house create artificial layers of reconstructed views of the objects within.

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