David Adshead, the National Trust’s architectural historian, has just told me in response to the previous post that Soane’s pendentive domes were originally inspired by the designs of George Dance the Younger (1741-1825), whose pupil Soane had been.
Dance included a pendentive dome in his design for the Chamber of the Court of Common Council in the Guildhall, London, which was built in 1777-9 (and demolished in 1906). A more modest pendentive dome designed by Dance can still be seen at Mount Stewart, Co. Down.
As David outlines in his book Wimpole: Architectural Drawings and Topographical Views (National Trust, 2007), Soane also adopted Dance’s use of concave scallops to cover the inner surface of domes.
The classical inspiration for these may have been the semicircular scalloped dome of the Scenic Triclinium of Hadrian’s Villa; or it could have been the Roman practice to use a billowing sail or velarium as a sunshade over their amphitheatres.
At Wimpole Soane also designed and built a poetic Castello d’Aqua, or waterworks building, its shape inspired by ancient Roman mausolea. Sadly it was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Soane also demonstrated his versatility at Wimpole by designing a model farm that reflected the third Earl of Hardwicke’s zeal for agricultural improvement.
Addendum 24 February: Barry of The Blue remebered Hills has just kindly shown me this image of the dome of the church of the Madonna di San Biagio in Montepulciano, built in 1518, which illustrates perfectly the original function of pendentives, as the transition between a square and a round volume. This was the type of dome that Dance and Soane would go on to take one step further, extending the pendentives into a complete dome.