Winding Through Europe

By Catarina Figueiredo Soares

The Grand Tour; actually, a momentous time in travel historically, not the modern TV show about cars. This infamous event was memorable and adventurous (1700-1800) for rich young British men coming of age. Celebrated with a trip to Europe, through different countries and cities, to polish their education engaging with culture but also having ‘fun’. Winding through the streets, exploring a new world where they can experience art and architecture and visualise the mesmerising beauty of what surrounds them. Find out more about the old way of travelling and admiring art, that is again the trendy way, in Winding Through Europe.

Image by Ellie Darby Prangnell

The term ‘Grand Tour’ was coined by Richard Lassels (Catholic priest and travel writer), who used it in his guidebook The Voyage of Italy (published 1670) to demonstrate how young lords travelled overseas to gain additional knowledge in architecture, antiquity, and art. This trip was seen as educational and cultural but for some, it was also sexual freedom as they could also be chatty with the ladies. London was mostly the starting point, with Paris on the map and Italy as a must destination to visualise Renaissance art through ancient ruins, paintings, and sculptures. 

Nowadays we wouldn’t think twice about how many museums and galleries we have to admire art. But at the time, there was a lack of museums, so sculptures and paintings were shown through private collections to Grand Tourists. They would acquire examples of Italian and Greco-Roman art to add to their personal collections. The galleries that were a part of the Grand Tour circuit were the Uffizi Gallery (from 1765), the Vatican Museums (opened 1769-1774) and the Louvre (1793). In France, the Notre Dame, the Palace of Versailles, and the Chateau de Fontainebleau was the most admired architecture. These galleries and architecture icons are still open to this day, interestingly enough, something new in the 1700s is still venerated and fascinating in the 2000s.

The ‘Grand Tour’ was a luxury and not available for everyone at the time but luckily today taking a gap year or doing interrail is more accessible and, not only in Europe, but all over the world. In the olden days, mainly the privileged and noble people were able experience the Grand Tour.

Strawberry Hill House & Garden has, as an In Focus display for 2022, the David Garrick in Italy painting by Thomas Patch. In the portray, we can see David Garrick, a Grand Tourist and to his right, Horace Mann, a British envoy. A portrait of Garrick’s wife, Eva Maria, is situated on the right. She was a famous dancer and is always emphasised in his portraits to demonstrate that he doesn’t see this journey as a sexual one, but as an intellectual one. This display dedicated to The Grand Tour is available from the 24th of March to the 24th of July.

David Garrick in Italy by Thomas Patch

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