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Drawing Room from Lansdowne House

c. 1766-1775
Designed by Robert Adam (Scottish, 1728–1792) Painted decoration by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (Italian (active Florence and England), 1727–1785) , and by Antonio Zucchi (Italian, 1726–1795) Gilded by Joseph Perfetti (Italian, active London from 1760–1778)

This drawing room is an archetypal example of the work of Robert Adam, a Scottish architect and designer whose name has become synonymous with this style of neoclassical decoration. The room was originally situated on the ground floor of the grand London house that Adam designed for the third Earl of Bute in the early 1760s. Adam's original plans refer to it as the "Organ Drawing Room," the large recess being intended for Lord Bute's vastly expensive mechanical organ.

In 1765, Lord Bute sold the unfinished house to William Petty Fitzmaurice, second Earl of Shelburne and later first Marquess of Lansdowne, with the provision that Adam be retained to continue work on the home. Adam was already well known to Lord Shelburne, whose father had employed the architect to remodel Bowood, his family's country estate in Wiltshire. (Shelburne, who served as Secretary of State and in 1783 concluded the Treaty of Paris granting independence to the United States, entertained Benjamin Franklin at Bowood on several occasions.) Lord Shelburne and his wife moved into the house in 1768, when it was in what Lady Shelburne described as "so unfurnishd a State." Yet by the time of Lady Shelburne's death and the end of Adam's employment by Lord Shelburne in 1771, the decoration of the drawing room remained incomplete and was evidently abandoned.

Although the room's original furnishings do not survive today, it is known that Adam provided designs for a pier-glass and a semicircular pier-table, executed by John Gilbert; circular picture frames, executed by Sefferin Nelson; and a carpet, the design for which is in the collection of Sir John Soane's Museum in London.

In 1929, Lord Shelburne's heirs sold the house to a group of investors. The room was acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1931, when the front of the house, including the drawing room and the dining room (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art), was slated for demolition to make way for a new street.

Object Details

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