THE GRAND TOUR AND THE SOCIETY OF DILETTANTI
Francisco Martínez Mindeguía, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya


Gustavus Hamilton (1710-1746), second Viscount Boyne, and colleagues with whom he made his Tour between 1730 and 1731. Apparently, they are in the cabin of the boat that was to bring them back from Venice. The painting is made by the Venetian painter Bartolomeo Nazari (1693-1758).

Since 1604, when England and Spain ceased there war hostilities, after the restoration of the Stuart dynasty and especially after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1668, which gave the country greater political stability, it became fashionable among the young aristocrats and wealthy families to finish their studies with a trip to Italy. This is what is known as the Grand Tour, which reached the highest intensity in the second half of the eighteenth century, decreasing after 1796, when France invaded Italy and the Venetian Republic fell into the hands of Austria. Initially, these trips were quite unpopular among English families, mostly because they entailed going to a Catholic country where young people could be tempted by forbidden pleasures and amusements. Other drawbacks were the organization of the trip and the high cost.

The trip was normally made with a paid companion. In some cases, not just one companion, but a retinue. Perhaps the extreme case was that of John Cecil, Count of Exeter (1648-1700), who, in 1679, made his first trip accompanied by his wife, his 5 year old son, two guards, a chaplain, 5 women (?), 14 waitresses and 30 horses. The second trip was made only with two companions, a chaplain, an administrator and 4 waiters. Another case was that of Richard Boyle, Count of Burlington, who travelled with a Huguenot pastor, a painter, 4 drivers, a lackey, a waiter, a cook, an accountant, 4 slaves, a preceptor, a physician and 3 musicians. These trips were expensive, since, besides the displacement, they had to pay accommodation, parties and purchases of books and works of art. Gradually, these trips were extended to other social classes

Amidst this environment, there was an important event in London: a group of about 40 young men, rich and aristocrats, founded the Society of Dilettanti in 1734. It was a kind of club that aimed to promote the “Greek taste and Roman spirit”. To this end, they subsidized expeditions to Greece and Italy, for themselves or others, architects, archaeologists and scholars.
 
 


These two paintings were made by Sir Joshua Reynolds, from 1777-79, also a member of the club. The first represents a group of dilettanti observing a Greek vase and consulting a book of engravings, where it appears reproduced, while others are appreciating the qualities of a wine. In the second image, some members are observing some jewels.

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.
 


This is the first book’s first sheet, The view of the ruined city of Palmyra. The book is a series of sheets, preceded by an introductory text from the poet Homer. The plate shows a general picture, a landscape of the city, with a certain picturesque ambience, by the atmosphere and the shadows.

Compared with Desgodets’ work, the building here is no longer considered as an autonomous monument, independent from the environment where it is located. Wood starts from the image of the city (the desolation, the ruin...), in which he represents the situation of each piece related to the whole and the correlation each has with the other pieces. This appears as a reflex of certain sensitivity for landscape, coming from his English culture.

After this panoramic view and a situation plan, the book shows each building, starting with a perspective and then plans, sections, elevations, details,...

This is one of the studied buildings. First a perspective ,
 


And then the plans, elevations ... and details .

The book of the ruins of Baalbeck has the same structure, begins with a perspective,
 


Followed by the situation plan,

Before each building, a view of the environment,

And then the plans, elevations, sections,...


The second expedition was that of James Stuart and Nichola Revet. Stuart was a painter and expert in Greek and Roman art and architecture. He had worked as a guide to Italy and spoke Latin, Greek and Italian. Nicholas Revet was an aristocrat, amateur artist and architect. They met when the latter was doing his Tour of Italy. During the expedition they were accompanied by Gavin Hamilton and Matthew Brettingham (the young one). They went to Naples and then to Greece, Thessaloniki and Athens.

The drawings were published in four volumes of engravings, in 1762 and 1812, entitled The Antiquity of Athens. This book's structure is similar to Wood’s. Every building starts with a view of the ambiance,
 


Then follow the plans, sections, elevations and details ,
 
 
 

The Parthenon appears in the second volume. It start with a perspective view,
 


And then, as in the other cases, the plan, the elevations, sections, details,...
 
 
 


This is the frieze, a splendid drawing, in which Stuart, as painter, shows how an architect understands and uses the shadows. Surpassing the absurd prohibitions of Durand and Quatremère de Quincy, shadows are used here to explain a form, the structure of the layers of a relief. It is obvious that overlapping and hiding the bodies allowed to deduct, in most part, the depth of the relief, but the resource provides us an easier and faster comprehension of it. They are not real shadows as result of a specific lighting, but shadows made in order to distinguish, basically, two levels of depth. Thus, it implies a simplification of the real three-dimensionality, aiming to improve the comprehension of represented space.


Origin of the images:
- Robert Wood, The Ruins of Palmyra, Farnborough, Gregg, 1971 (fac. from London, 1753)
- Robert Wood, The Ruins of Balbes , Farnborough, Gregg, 1971 (fac. from London, 1757)
- James Stuart, The Antiquities of Athens, New York , Benjamin Blom, 1968 (fac. from London, John Haberkorn, 1762)

Recommended bibliography :
- R. Weiss, The Renaissance discovery of classical antiquity, New York, 1969
- Andrew Wilton y Ilaria Bignamini, Grand Tour. Il fascino dell'Italia nel XVIII secolo, Milan, Skira, 1997
- Gigliola Pagano de Divitiis, "Cultura ed economia: aspetti del Grand Tour", Annali di architettura, n. 12, 2000
- Gigliola Pagano de Divitiis, "Cultura ed economia: aspetti del Grand Tour", Annali di architettura, 12, 2000, pp. 127-141
- Jeremy Black, Italy and the Grand Tour, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2003

© by Francisco Martínez Mindeguía’s texts
Francisco Martínez Mindeguía is Profesor Agregado at the Superior Technical Architecture School of Vallès (Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura del Vallès), UPC.

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