day 2 of 5: travelling to Europe in the 18th Century (Rome – Fine Art)

Continuing with our Grand Tour, after yesterday’s visit to Paris, the traveller would head south.  Many tourists would buy a coach and horses to accommodate their friends and tutor to travel across the continent in style.  The trip usually went via Geneva Switzerland, an obligatory stop to visit the Calvinist city before crossing the Alps and into long awaited Italy.  Stops would be made in Turin and Florence before arriving in the Eternal City.

One of the best ways to show mom and dad that their money was well spent was by buying fine art to wallpaper the walls of their country piles.  One of the all time favorite artists to bring back was Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765), who was Rome’s version of Canaletto and who painted vistas (vedute) of the city.  He also used artistic license by painting capriccios, non site-specific mixes of structures and elements of antiquity that made for stunning compositions.

Rome was also THE place to have your portrait painted.  One of the most patronized of artists was Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), perhaps the greatest producer of Grand Tour souvenir portraits.  Over 200 Brits sat for him in Rome!  His style of portraiture, with its richness of color and textures was the most fashionable, inspiring artists back in England like Joshua Reynolds.  His images of men placed in vignettes with the required classical column, urn and/or bust from antiquity show proud young patricians dressed in their finery and showcasing their good taste and education.

One of the appeals of old master paintings of cities like Rome or Paris is that viewers today can relate to the vistas hundreds of years after the fact because they remain largely unchanged today.  I personally love to see paintings of places such as the Piazza Del Popolo and then remember the enchanting time spent during my own “Grand Tour”, when I sat on that same piazza.

Check out the first of my Grand Tour series – Paris – and then come back the rest of the week for our visit to Rome (Decorative Art), Naples and Venice.

richard rabel
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city

image credits: all Christie’s