Take a Grand Tour around LAW
Written by Silke Lohmann | 2 July 2022
The Grand Tour played a key role in broadening, mainly young gentlemen's, but sometimes young couples' or even young lady's, education by travelling around the European continent and often returning with artworks to furnish ancestral homes. Italy was a popular destination and it was fashionable to have one's portrait painted by an artist du jour while abroad. The aim of the tour was to give an aesthetic education, in particular in French and Italian art and travellers would return with paintings and sculptures as 'souvenirs' from the great cities of the Renaissance or the remains of classical civilisations like the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Artists such as Canaletto almost exclusively painted for the 18th century tourist market. Foreign travel was popular from the mid-17th century, with a 'Grand Tour' often lasting between two and three and a half years; the fashion came to a halt with the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars at the end of the 18th century, although it was revived to an extent in the 19th century.
Join us for a tour around London Art Week highlights that remind us of the time of the Grand Tourists...
Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd have an exceptional full-length portrait by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739 - 1808) of George Clavering Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper. The pastel from 1785 with a lovely inscription on the dog's collar 'Cowper' has remained in the sitter's family by descent. Cowper was one of the outstanding figures in 18th century Florence, and Hamilton one of the greatest Irish portraitists of the period. Cowper spent most of his adult life in Florence where he lived magnificently, pursuing a range of cultural, political and scientific interests.
Cowper championed Handel and patronised a stream of artists, including Johan Zoffany from whom he acquired the Niccolini-Cowper Madonna and Small Cowper Madonna, both by Raphael and both now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. He also sponsored a number of scientists including Alessandro Volta's work on electromagnetism. Hugh Douglas Hamilton resided in Florence for two years, studying in the Uffizi and producing portraits of Grand Tourists as well as members of the resident British community. His portrait of Cowper is undoubtedly the masterpiece from his time in the city, an astonishingly virtuosic work which demonstrates Hamilton's mastery of the medium of pastel.
First stop on the tour was often Paris and Didier Aaron has a watercolour, an architectural caprice, by Victor-Jean Nicolle (1754 - 1826) that shows The Monuments of Paris in the 1790s just before the Napoleonic Wars started.
The Grand tourists would then travel through the Alps towards Italy.
James Mackinnon is exhibiting this unrecorded watercolour by John Robert Cozens (1752 - 1797). This view of William Tell's Chapel by Lake Lucerne depicts the scene with clearing skies after rain, a calm settled on the surface of the water and a limpid atmosphere. It is a brilliant and poetic interpretation of the landscape in such weather, known to all who may have experienced it.
Then on to Venice, where this drawing by Francesco Guardi (1712 - 1793) of The Lion of Saint Mark, drawn during the height of the Grand Tour in c. 1735 - 1750 would have attracted attention. It is part of an exhibition of Settecento Veneto: Venetian Drawings of the Eighteenth Century at Stephen Ongpin Fine Art.
Next stop Florence, where this wonderful bronze of Il Porcellino (The Wild Boar), based on the famous ancient marble excavated in Rome in the mid-16th century, ended up and led to many artists making casts of it. Since then it has been admired for its naturalism and artistic quality and was historically associated with the legend of the Calydonian Boar killed by the young hero Meleager. This one by Giovanni Francesco Susini (1585 - c. 1653) was made in Florence in the first half of the 17th century and is an exquisitely cast small-scale model of the celebrated antiquity and would have made an ideal souvenir. It has recently been exhibited as part of an exhibition on the Grand Tour at Strawberry Hill House and is part of Tomasso's offering.
And off to Rome, where the ruins of an ancient Roman building in the Parco della Caffarella, to the East of the Via Appia Pignatelli and to the North-East of the Circus of Maxentius, were traditionally known as the Fountain, Grotto or Nymphaeum of Egeria, in the belief that it marked the spot where the nymph had died of grief. Ovid relates the story of how the consort of King Numa Pomilius melted into tears of sorrow on his death in 673 B.C., thus becoming a spring. The fountain was a popular subject for artists in the 17th and 18th centuries. This watercolour by Carl Ludwig Hackert (1740 - 1796) Rome: The Fountain of the Nymph Egeria from 1776 is on view at Charles Beddington Ltd.
Antonio Giorgetti's (Documented in Rome c. 1657 - 1669) beautiful Head of an Angel from circa 1663 would have reminded visitors of the Ponte Sant'Angelo where the Angel with the sponge looks almost identical. It was sculpted by Giorgetti and designed by Bernini himself and it has been suggested that this head is a preparatory model for the statue on the bridge. It is part of a terracotta exhibition at Trinity Fine Art.
Further South, in the province of Salerno, tourists were able to visit a major ancient Greek city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Paestum. Antonio Joli (c. 1700 - 1777) was commissioned by Sir James Gray, 2nd Bt. (c. 1708 - 1773), the Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Naples from 1759-1764 to paint this oil on canvas. It later entered the collection of the aristocrat, voracious collector and renowned Grand Tourist James Hugh Smith Barry (1746 - 1801), who was in Naples in the 1770s. Paestum hung among Smith Barry's unequalled collection of paintings and antiquities at Marbury Hall in Cheshire and is now on view at Colnaghi.
Sometimes the intrepid Grand Tourist would venture even further. The remains of the Temple of Jupiter and the Great Court at Baalbek, Lebanon painted in the 18th Century by Louis-François Cassas (1756 - 1827) is coming up for sale at Bonhams.