Sometimes the line between ones profession and ones hobbies becomes blurred and even dissolves. Like when I was invited by my colleague Elisabeth to give a talk about The Grand Tour. This happened the other night at The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet, in Stockholm) when one of their “Friday late” events was about Learning. A handful of university professors and other guests talked about learning, going back to Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates et al. My contribution was to give a dramatized tour in the Roman gallery. In full Regency gear, backed up by Helena and Anders, I introduced the audience to the concept of The Grand Tour, that is travelling to the Continent (France and Italy) in the 18th and early 19th centuries to experience Art and Culture. And to commission a portrait or perhaps spend a lot of money on recently excavated Greek or Roman antiques. The grand tourist was nearly always a man, from the aristocracy or at least the upper social sphere, and used daddy´s money. Travellers of limited means, such as art students and architects, could join a Grand Tour party as a cicerone, or could apply for a scholarship, or was fortunate to find a private sponsor.
There is an entertaining episode in Little Dorrit (BBC, 2008) when the Dorrits have come to money and go on a Grand Tour. They hire this extremely annoying Mrs General (Pam Ferris) to teach the girls genteel manners (“elocution and deportment”). The gentry is expected to know the ways of the World, so the Dorrits simply must cross the Alps and go to Italy. In Venice they rent a grand palazzo. It does not run smoothly, to say the least. Another famous example is of course A room with a view, but that is two generations later when the railway had made travelling considerably easier.
It looks like the museum was empty, but everybody was up in the auditorium when we took the pictures. (And when it was my turn I obviously couldn´t wave about with a camera.)
We had a great evening and of course answered many questions about our clothes. The audience was very focused and eager to learn, so I made a on the spot decision to not joke too much and be a little more serious than was originally intended. There was so much to talk about: Goethe. How the actual travelling was done (boat, horses and carriage, by foot). What visitors from northern Europe thought about the great Italian cities, architecture, art, food, lodging, Italians, and so on. Did you know that the Swedish king Gustaf III climbed the Mount Vesuvius – in a sedan chair? Or that many British tourists fell in love with Florence because the city reminded them of Bath?