The Grand Tour

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.


Apollo di Belvedere. Acquired in Italy by William Petty, lord Landsdowne, for Landsdowne House in Berkely Square, London.


A view of the Lapidarium with its Roman sculptures. The magnificent renaissance-revival building was originally a bank. The central courtyard is a copy of the Palazzo Bevilaqua in Bologna.


Anders and Helena joined me on the Tour. Photo by Ove Kaneberg


Presenting the wonders of Naples. Photo by Ove Kaneberg.


I kept all my notes, drawings, and “engravings” in this “antique” portfolio. (I actually made it the same afternoon, based on originals I have seen in museum collections.)

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.


Little Dorrit: Amy Dorrit (Claire Foy) with her sister (Emma Pierson) and Mrs General (Pam Ferris).

A real life Grand Tourist of the late 1780´s, very elegantly dressed: Edward Austen (Knight), Jane Austen´s elder brother, who was adopted by wealthy, childless relatives. Painted in Rome, perhaps by continental jet-set favourite Batoni? Chawton House.



In front of the beautiful Artemis. It was also part of the Landsdowne Collection. Landsdowne house in London is today the Landsdowne Club.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Feeling solemn when surrounded by Fine Art.

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?


5 thoughts on “The Grand Tour

  1. Beautiful idea! I would have loved to be there. It’s so brillant that you have done the talk in Regency attitire. Your audience certainly was thrilled.Congratulations!

  2. Pingback: Drop-front Dress and Spencer | Regencygentleman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s