The Art of the Grand Tour and Neoclassicism: second in an occasional series

From the late 1600’s until well into the nineteenth century, the education of a young Northern European, English or American gentleman and, increasingly, gentlewoman, was completed on the Grand Tour, a prolonged visit to the major cultural sites of southern Europe, especially, Italy.

The tour would begin in Paris, then move on to a number of well-preserved Roman buildings and monuments in Southern France.

The focus of the Grand Tour was Italy, repository of the classical and Renaissance pasts. In Italy the principal points of interest were Venice, Florence, Naples and Rome and the recently excavated sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

In the first decades of the seventeenth century these tourists, especially the British, spent their money on “vedoute” (Italian for “views”), city views that they collected, primarily as memoirs of their Grand Tour experience.

Veduta di Belvedere in Vaticano

Veduta dell'Arco di Gallieno

Chiesa de Gesù

Veduta della Fontana d'Acqua Felice a Termini

Piranesi was one of the most famous artists depicting ancient Italian views; the extraordinary archeological finds he  recorded excited great interest in classical art and artifacts.

This furor over the rediscovery of the Classical influenced the styles of architecture, art, decorative arts and furniture which evolved through  the 18th century.  The Classic,  dignified, rational, noble,  was imitated and revived as Neo-Classicism.   Beginning in the 1750’s and known in France as Louis XVI and in England as Georgian,  in Rome a bolder and more independent version of Neo-Classicism began to emerge in the late 1760’s.  As the century advanced this movement was known as Empire in France and late-Georgian and Regency in Great Britain.

Piranesi Antiques’ collection of decorative arts, furniture and prints recall the antiquarian, classical design and ornamentation of the unique treasures purchased by the 18 th century adventurer and scholar on the European Grand Tour.


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