Help save the original frame of one of Sir John Soane’s most treasured paintings

at Sir John Soane's Museum, Greater London

Detail of the gilded frame of The Snake in the Grass by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Photo by Tom Ryley


© Sir John Soane’s Museum


£16,711 raised
189 funders

Funded 19 November 2018

0% funded

111% funded

Nearly 200 years ago, the great architect and collector Sir John Soane left his house and museum for everyone to enjoy. One of the most treasured paintings in Soane’s collection was The Snake in the Grass by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which depicts a classical nymph possibly portrayed by Emma Hamilton. Soane hung the painting prominently opposite his own portrait in the lavish Library-Dining Room, where it remains today.

The gilded frame of this painting is significant in its own right. A beautiful work of 19th-century craftsmanship, it is also the original frame in which Soane bought the painting, a rarity as many historic paintings had their original frames removed.

But today, this frame is desperately in need of repair. The gilding is in poor condition and the gesso surface beneath has degraded. We need your help to raise the £15,000 required to clean and conserve this frame and preserve it for generations to come.

Soane had a personal connection to the painting. The artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds, was a champion of Soane’s during the architect’s early career. When Soane, as a student, won the Royal Academy’s prestigious Gold Medal for Architecture, it had been Reynolds who presented him with the medal, setting him up for early success. Soane hung this painting in the Library-Dining Room as a mark of its significance and of Reynolds’ importance in his life.

If we’re successful in raising £15,000, we’ll be able to fund the expertise, materials and processes necessary to conserve this beautiful frame. The money will largely go towards the cost of a specialist frame conservator working on the frame over the three months of conservation, in addition to the materials needed to conserve the frame. It will also pay for expert art handlers to carefully de-install and re-install the painting, and for storage of the Reynolds painting during the three months. The £15,000 also includes replacement of the frame’s glazing with a special non-reflective glass, and detailed photographic records of the frame pre- and post-conservation.

Please donate today, and help us save the original frame of one of Sir John Soane’s most treasured paintings.

We’re delighted to announce that through Art Fund, a private donor has matched pound for pound the first £5,000 of donations, doubling the impact.

We want everyone to have the power to make art happen

Art Happens is the UK's only crowdfunding platform dedicated to museums and galleries, giving everyone the power to make art happen. If you have any questions or need help donating, contact us on 0203 757 9772 or email

Five great reasons to #SaveTheFrame

We’ve officially launched our crowdfunding project to save the frame of 'The Snake in the Grass', one of Sir John Soane’s most treasured paintings. Here are five reasons to donate to our campaign... Read more

Conserving the frame: step by step

Head of Conservation Jane Wilkinson explains the painstaking processes needed to return the frame of The Snake in the Grass to its former splendour... Read more

62% in the first week – help us spread the word

Thank you so much to everyone who's donated to #SaveTheFrame so far. Help us spread the word and reach 100%... Read more

Location, Location, Location

Sir John Soane described the arrangements in his museum as ‘studies for my mind’. Deputy director and inspectress Helen Dorey tracks the movement of The Snake in the Grass through the museum, and what this reveals about Soane’s relationship with the painting and its frame... Read more

Emma Hamilton: The woman behind the painting

The model for the classical nymph depicted in the Snake in the Grass may be Emma Hamilton, best known as the lover of Admiral Horatio Nelson but also a woman with an eventful life and a unique artistic talent... Read more

100% raised, and four engravings by Piranesi

We are delighted to announce that our campaign has just exceeded our £15,000 target – meaning that we’re now able to conserve the frame of The Snake in the Grass... Read more

Thank you for getting us to 111%

Our crowdfunding campaign has ended, and we're delighted to announce that we've successfully raised – and exceeded – our £15,000 target. We are now able to conserve the frame of The Snake in the Grass. To everyone who donated, a warm thank you for your support... Read more

Conservation is underway – and rewards update

Following the success of the campaign to #SaveTheFrame – thanks to your support – we’ve removed The Snake in the Grass from the walls of the Museum in order for conservation to begin... Read more

Update on rewards

Work continues on the conservation of the frame of The Snake in the Grass. Meanwhile, we have been working hard with Art Fund to produce the sets of postcards, tote bags, and framed prints... Read more

A second layer of gilding discovered

Our conservators have made a series of exciting discoveries during the first phases of conservation... Read more

Final stages

As we near the candlelit unveiling of the frame of The Snake in the Grass, Head of Conservation Jane Wilkinson discusses the final stages of the conservation project: gilding and toning... Read more

With thanks to...

Michael Snowden

Michael Staples

Michael Ryley

Mary Beard

James Willis

Nicholas Hedley

Cam Mceachern

Claudia Bertel

Helen Dorey

Frederick Lock

David Ish-Horowicz

Melissa Holloway

Nicholas Halmi

Enid Cassin

Emma Capello





Mark Tinworth


Danielle Willkens

Jane Wilkinson

Alba Ramos Martinez

Sarah Pitel

Jo Ryley

Frances Sands

Edward Dyball

Christiane Faivre

Jackie Eveleigh

Stephen Lewis

Peter Dawkins

Adam Throw

Ivy Johnson

David Mateer

Nicholas Sheaff

Julia Matheson

Klaus Wehner

Marcella Calza

Abi Preston

Huiwen Zhang

Clarisa Butler

John Francis

David Bruce

Franklin Berman

Marian Hobson

Johanna Ewins

Helen Carter

Christopher Thompson

William Pummell

Angus Anderson

Louise Hodgson

Dennis Laurin

Laura Steen

Tom Ryley

D Robinson

Catherine Yates

Mary Smith

Gary Cooper


Rose Kerr

Lyn Meadows

Madeleine Perridfe

Peter Nahum

Toby Voss

Bill Dyer

Jeremy Prescott

Diane Boucher

Susie west

Joe Smouha

Michael Waldron

Jonathan Ashmore

Anna Lipa

zina sparling

Nichola Johnson

Thomas McIver

Craig Lawrie

Nick Ball

Rufus Bird

Linda Landsidle

Rosamond Marshall Smith

Nicole Hartwell

R Gwynne

Gail Crown

David Hedges

Janet Bazley

Claudia Baroni

Simone Kunisch

Peter Ferguson

Roger Rosewell

Helen Dorey





Suzannah Lishman

Margaret Ross

Dawn Muirhead

Sonia Charbonnier

Kezia Shee

Camilla Ravani

Elizabeth Haff

John Glaves-smith

Adolphe Sweerts de landas

Elizabeth Newlands

Carolyn Wagstaff

Barton Trust

Roberto Rossi

Glyn Lawrence


Anthony Watt

Alan Gartrell

Richard Beckett

Tallulah Smart

Conrad Fry

Katie Jelbert

Sj Wood

Lyndon Jones

Bella Kerr

David Pearce

Victoria Moorshead

David Deller

Ariana Musiol

Valerie Wilson

Alan Karr

Mark Pring

Paul Milnes

Stephen Chappell

Julie Bowdler

Paul Bijvoet

Angela Barratt

Melanie Mackley

Gaynor Laight

Heather Gibbard

Inge Jacobsen

John Reid

George Bye

mosette Broderick

Emilie Cloos

Bruce Boucher

Willa Beckett

Tamara Barschak



Kevin Shenton


Basil Postan


Guy Elliott

Henrik Drufva

Merrin Kalinowski

Adrian Gibbs

Ben Murray

Amanda Barnes

Chloe Jenkins

Robert Ellis

Kevin Murphy

Catherine Woodward

Silvia Bonacasa

Barbara Kaye

Kerry Apted


Phillip Thwaites

Jack Roberts

Sarah Mitchell

Helen Janecek

Chas Miller

Danny Mitchell





Helene Priego

Isabel Wilkinson

Will Widen

Mike Way

Iain Sturch

Nicky Simmons

Roger Evans

Lynn Roberts

Kenneth Gray

Philip Nickson

Gary Tranter

Chris Trynka

Henna Bhatti

Connie Churcher

Peter Dwyer-Hickey



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