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Alas Poor Fanny

A chum and I did something just a bit wonderful last night. We bimbled down to Lincoln's Inn Fields around 4.30, waiting for this:


A gentleman in a fine old hat warned us that though the Soanes Museum closes at 5 to reopen at 6, this candlelit viewing of John Soanes' house is always very popular, and if we didn't queue early, we would be waiting for hours. We didn't pay that much heed. Lincoln's Inn Fields is so very pretty as dusk falls into dark, and the windows light up across the centuries. There are snowdrops under the trees, first I've seen this year. We wandered through arches, and found slabs under which lost laywers lie. Then we returned to Soanes house at about 4.45, to find over 40 people waiting.

God, god, how cold did it get as we waited! The man in the hat did not exaggerate...the queue went beyond our sight and round the corner. One might wonder if it was worth all the while in the freezing dark. I couldn't feel my feet. Then they let us in, small groups at a time, and I didn't wonder any more.

I suppose there is an argument against seeing a museum by candlelight. After all, you will obviously miss certain details. But the atmosphere is so evocative, and the Soanes Museum is unlike others; it's basically a townhouse, whose owner had the kind of wealth that enabled him to knock out walls and ceilings in order to position awkward antiquities just so. At points it becomes a strange temple to many gods. Then it seems that the whole thing folds in on itself along tiny corridors, surrounded by courtyards and demi-rooms all lit by magic. In one, a nymph stared out for all the world as though she had just seen us. Through another we could just make out a memorial engraved with the words 'Alas Poor Fanny'*. Apollo Belvedere strutted his stuff, proving that even sun gods can benefit from shadows playing on their abs, Diana of the Ephesians smiled above her necklace of testicles/breasts, bronze Chinese lions danced in the flicker, gargoyles played on the walls and King Seti's sarcophagus lay there glowing.

We left the candlelit museum happy and ready for something to warm us; a glass of ginger wine in the nearby Ship Tavern proved just the ticket. This is Imbolc time, called Candlemass by many. It was a beautiful way to celebrate.

*Fanny, it transpires, was the family doggie.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
It's quite a place, isn't it?

Did you see the bizarre folding-out-paintings room with the Rake's Progress?
Feb. 4th, 2011 08:33 am (UTC)
I saw the folding out door/window phenomenon from below and diagonal - still don't know how that worked! But if it had the Rakes Progress on it, I completely missed it. When I got to the paintings room, the only work of Hogarth's was the Election series. A lot of paintings of Venice too.
Feb. 4th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
The folding nature allows several layers of paintings to be hung so you can't always see the Rake's Progress. They're quite dark paintings so the museum may have opted to show the Election instead for the candlelit tour.

I am most envious of you seeing the Soames museum by candlelight. I've been there a couple of times now but always in the day. It is magical, isn't it.

At some point I want to go and draw in there, but I'll have to either go alone or take people who don't mind me standing there drawing for 45min without speaking... And get a babysitter for young T.

Edited at 2011-02-04 05:58 pm (UTC)
Feb. 5th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC)
Very very magical - I get what you mean about going alone to draw, there was a part of me that just wanted to find a corner to sit and write a new story among the candles and shadows. But of course, any chairs one finds are part of the exhibition.

I didn't know you could draw!
Feb. 2nd, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)

Ian and I went in daylight and were amused by it, but I really fancy going back at night. If only they'd let you take pictures. I can understand the reasons why not, but I still wish I could

Feb. 4th, 2011 08:35 am (UTC)
I am actually considering not going back in daylight for fear it won't be as crazy or enchanting. The curators(?) seem all to be hardcore historians who insist the place is much better by day cos you can see everything. But I love the magic!

Photos could be extraordinary. I want to base a film there.
Feb. 3rd, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC)
It sounds wonderful. I'm going to add it to my list of places to visit!
Feb. 4th, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
It is wonderful - the chum I went with was Caroline! The candlelight thing is lovely, but apparently they only do this on the first Tuesday of each month, with the result of these daunting queues.
Feb. 4th, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
Ahhh I bet that was much fun with Caroline! Hmmm, first Tuesday it shall be then. I am not a fierce historian so I wouldn't miss the detial found by daytime. Don't get me wrong I'm fascinated by it all but I would much prefer to encorporated the magic with the candlelight. Butterfly is already thinking of the logistics...which 'first tuesday' could I get off, potential cost of trip etc...The whole place just sounds and feels enchanting, even the grounds!! I'll brave the queues...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )



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