25 May 2018

Art & Antiques in the Age of the Grand Tour

In the rarefied environs of Georgian England's polite society, a young gentleman's education was not complete before he had embarked on The Grand Tour...

'A Water Party' Oil on Canvas by John James Salon. A Landscape depicting a traveling group in a classical landscape. English school. Available at Horton London

The Grand Tour was an extended travel itinerary, which took in the cultural capitals of Europe and provided the perfect opportunity for wealthy aristocrats to collect art and antiques destined for the finest country houses in England.

More than just a holiday, the Grand Tour was an artistic, historical and cultural education. Beyond that, it was a rite of passage and an induction into elite society. Its beginnings lie in the 17th century, as rich Europeans began to explore the world by sea, and reached its peak in the 18th century with travelers passing through the continent by boat and rail. Later in the century young aristocratic women followed suit, but the tour was always primarily the pursuit of sons and heirs.

A typical tour began in Paris and commenced south through France, taking in the Swiss alps on the way to Italy. Italy was the jewel in the crown, with Rome and Venice the pinnacle of any tour. Next, most travelers headed southward to the ancient ruins of Tivoli, Pompeii and Herculaneaum.

Those with the greatest means would visit the workshops of famous artists, commissioning elaborate works of art such as marble statues and family portraits. Those with less might pick up jewellery such as roman style intaglio's, or metal-ware and ceramics depicting Arcadian landscapes and classical temples.

Here at Grays you can browse the wonders of Europe's artistic past like Georgian aristocrats, without stepping foot outside of London!

We've picked out some of the most curious and beautiful items of the Grand tour era available now...

Swiss Gold and Enamel Brooch Depicting Children in a Rural Setting. Produced c1820 for tourists passing through Geneva on the Grand Tour. Available at The Antique Jewellery Company

Italian Maiolica roundel, produced in Castelli c1730. Available at Guest & Gray

Blue Sapphire Brooch in the shape of the ceremonial cap of the Venetian Doge. Italy, 19th Century. Available at Peter Szuhay

Carnelian Intaglio ring engraved with the faces of Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony and Octavius. Probably Rome, c.1770. Available at Peter Szuhay

Large Micro Mosaic depicting the Roman forum in Gilt Frame. Rome c.1820 . Available at Peter Szuhay 

Ring of Carved Coloured Lava from Mount Vesuvius, Sold in Naples c1820 to tourists on the Grand Tour. Available at The Antique Jewellery Company

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