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

by 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


£17,562 raised
189 funders

Funded 19 November 2018

0% funded

117% 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 campaignRead 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 splendourRead 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 frameRead 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 talentRead 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 GrassRead 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 supportRead 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 beginRead 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 printsRead more

A second layer of gilding discovered

Our conservators have made a series of exciting discoveries during the first phases of conservationRead 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 toningRead more

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