February 07 2012
Christina Ohly Evans
If you’ve ever been to the spectacularly eclectic house-collection that is Sir John Soane’s Museum in central London, then you know it is a gem of Regency art and architecture. Its gift shop is no less wonderful, but as the part of the complex that houses it is undergoing a major renovation, the museum’s eclectic e-boutique is your best bet for finding fascinating books, objets d’art and curiosities of all kinds.
The site is clearly divided into 11 well-edited sections that make navigation a breeze. Start in the Books area, where museum director Tim Knox’s beautiful coffee-table tome, Sir John Soane’s Museum London (second picture, £24.95), offers an extensive history of the collection, complete with stunning photographs by Derry Moore. There are all kinds of paper goods – a Leporello three-dimensional cut-out card (£5.95), standard greeting cards and postcards – as well as a Piranesi notebook (8.50) for sketching.
In Kitchen & Home you’ll find a rather unexpected selection of tea towels, including one depicting the dark Mephistopheles by Eugène Delacroix (£5.50) that could certainly take the prize for most unique – if not also most ghoulish – gift. Another intriguing item is the Tea Tidy (third picture, £4.50) with an image of a skull from The Grave by Louis Schiavonetti after William Blake. While they won’t be to everyone’s taste, they are definitely original.
The real beauty here, however, lies in objects such as a plaster replica model of The Temple of Vesta at Tivoli (available in March, first picture, £1,250). This copy of Francois Fouquet’s original by Bath-based artist Timothy Richards features a glass dome and a mahogany base – and it will be delivered to your door, complete with gorgeous packaging. For the jewellery lover, the Soane site offers a unique collection of Extasia hand-pressed cameo and intaglio necklaces (£95-220) that incorporate jet, black diamond, and slate-coloured German glass, all hung on stylishly chunky chains.
It’s a treasure trove of unexpected delights – the perfect match for the museum whose name it shares.