Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Grand Tour ...Aristocratic Initiation ... Individual Privilege instead of Mass Tourism

The more you know ... the more you see ... This is the only weapon against the collective paranoia of mass consumption that has invaded the modern concept of Tourism ... The old dilemma between "Being" and "Having" with the most important aspect in between ... "Becoming"
Yours ... Jeeves

The Grand Tour was the traditional travel of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage. Though primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the Continent, and from the second half of the 18th century some American and other overseas youth joined in.

The primary value of the Grand Tour, it was believed, lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music. A grand tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone, a knowledgeable guide or tutor. The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance; as E.P. Thompson opined, "ruling-class control in the 18th century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony, and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical (military) power."

This group was to fund some of the most important expeditions for the knowledge of the architecture in Greece and Asia Minor. The most famous ones are those of Robert Wood in 1750, and James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, in 1748-1755.

Robert Wood’s expedition to Greece, Asia Minor and Syria was led by James Dawkins (? -1757, a wealthy gentleman) and John Bouverie (1722-1750, amateur archaeologist). Robert Wood was a travel "guide", as he had been in Constantinople, several Aegean islands, Egypt and some cities in Syria and Mesopotamia. Wood was an erudite in classical themes, with sensitivity to capture the characteristics of a place, and a subtle understanding of natural beauties. For this reason Dawkins and Bouverie invited him to accompany them. Along with them went the architect, landscape architect and artist Giovanni Battista (Torquilio) Borra (1712-1786), as well. Wood and Borra drew the ruins of the cities of Palmyra (Syria) and Baalbeck (Lebanon), and published the drawings in two books, The Ruins of Palmyra in 1753, and The Ruins of Baalbeck in 1757.
(Francisco Martínez Mindeguía)

The essential place to visit, however, was Italy. The British traveler Charles Thompson speaks for many Grand Tourists when in 1744 he describes himself as "being impatiently desirous of viewing a country so famous in history, which once gave laws to the world; which is at present the greatest school of music and painting, contains the noblest productions of statuary and architecture, and abounds with cabinets of rarities, and collections of all kinds of antiquities." Within Italy, the great focus was Rome, whose ancient ruins and more recent achievements were shown to every Grand Tourist. Panini's Ancient Rome and Modern Rome represent the sights most prized, including celebrated Greco-Roman statues and views of famous ruins, fountains, and churches. Since there were few museums anywhere in Europe before the close of the eighteenth century, Grand Tourists often saw paintings and sculptures by gaining admission to private collections, and many were eager to acquire examples of Greco-Roman and Italian art for their own collections. In England, where architecture was increasingly seen as an aristocratic pursuit, noblemen often applied what they learned from the villas of Palladio in the Veneto and the evocative ruins of Rome to their own country houses and gardens.

...and many were eager to acquire examples of Greco-Roman and Italian art for their own collections...

Zoffani ... Charles Townley at home ...

The Grand Tour gave concrete form to Northern Europeans' ideas about the Greco-Roman world and helped foster Neoclassical ideals. The most ambitious tourists visited excavations at such sites as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Tivoli, and purchased antiquities to decorate their homes.

Kedleston Hall by Robert Adam

The dining rooms of Robert Adam's interiors typically incorporated classical statuary; the nine lifesized figures set in niches in the Lansdowne dining room were among the many antiquities acquired by the second earl of Shelburne, whose collecting activities accelerated after 1771, when he visited Italy and met Gavin Hamilton, a noted antiquary and one of the first dealers to take an interest in Attic ceramics, then known as "Etruscan vases."

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