Art Tour – The European Grand Tour

Art Tour – The European Grand Tour

hello welcome to the national gallery victoria i’m lori benson one of the curators here of international art and we’re going to take you on a bit of a whirlwind rapid tour of europe today and tour is actually the right word because what we’re going to look at today are works related to the grand tour now the grand tour is an extraordinary extraordinary phenomenon that happened in the 18th century and what we’ve discovered that nearly every old master painting in the entire national gallery collect national victoria collection has some linkage to the grand tour and that is fascinating so what but because what is the grand tour it’s it was an amazing phenomenon that happened it started towards the end of the 17th century but it was really an 18th century phenomenon mainly for very wealthy british wealthy wealthy british aristocrats and the upper middle classes who went to university and they studied they were during the 18th century they studied a very classical uh education they they went to oxford university they studied classical literature they studied classical history most of them learnt latin and ancient greek and to round off this education uh these wealthy aristocrats were sent or went on what was what became known as the grand tour and this was an amazing tour of europe where they were really immersing themselves in what they’d been studying on paper the grand tour is an extraordinary thing and i’m really quite jealous about it because sometimes they lasted anywhere between six months and up to four years of just touring around europe and and it was real as it was where they really really had their education rounded off and it really impacted very strongly on eventually on the ngv’s collection because these grand tourists bought a lot of art while while they’re away they bought souvenirs and even the word souvenir means it means memory and reminder in italian so they were buying souvenirs and a lot of that was great artworks that they’d been looking at now the grand tour usually started in paris but the main aim for the grand tour was of course to go to italy the the the home of classical uh classical studies in the home of the home of of of classical history and the main places they went to were venice was a major major destination because it was such an exotic place uh if they were lucky they if they if they extend they got down to naples where they would perhaps go to pompeii and look at the classical ruins in pompeii they would go to genoa and but but their main targets of course was to end up in rome because rome was really the center of classical history but i think one of the places they really like to go to was venice and venice is you know such an exotic city uh you know it of course it’s it’s stuck it’s it’s on a lagoon such a strange place it was a major port it was the it was really the touchstone to the byzantium uh byzantium culture so it’s an extraordinary mix of of of culture a lot of the the architecture is gothic architecture and a lot of it was still intact and it’s still intact today and of course it’s a great place for us to start a tour because ironically at the moment venice of course is empty of people and that really hasn’t happened i think since probably the world war ii or fascinating or probably actually since the plague years back in the in the 16th and 17th century so it would be wonderful to be in venice at the moment uh to because of it because it’s virtually empty of people and and would you see venice like like it hadn’t been seen for decades but our next best thing of course is to go on a tour of venice and we’re actually really starting in venice because it’s actually my favorite city in europe so that’s why we’re going to start in venice and there of course is no more quintessentially venetian painting than than this work here it’s by giovanni antonio canal who of course is better known as caneletto very aptly known as caneletto and this is a this to me is a quintessential grand tourist painting it’s a classic shot of venice it includes many of the really well known buildings in venice it’s looking across the the grand canal towards the judeka uh we have the san sorvino library the wonderful uh santiago column and we’re looking across to some of the great churches in venice as well and it is a shot of the of course of the grand canal now caneletto is is as i said the quintessential grand tourist painter because he actually started life out as a scene painter in the theater he he actually worked for his father uh who was also a scene painter but he graduated from scene painting to becoming this extraordinary purely urban landscape artist and who he was painting for were were the people on the grand tour and he pretty much made his entire career painting works for grand tourists actually strangely very few paintings by caneletto in in venice most of them are in have been spread around the world and what is equally strange or kind of not quite mystifying and interesting about this painting is that he actually painted this in england such as the demand for uh his work in england that there was a bit of a political drama in the 1740s and the tourist tourists kind of dried up in venice so he he pretty much lost his income so he packed up and he went to england and going to england he he painted a series of works for for many many of the grand tourists who he’d actually met while they were on the grand tour in venice and one of them was a guy called william holbeck who actually lived in venice for about 10 years and when he went back to england coincided with the time when canaletto came back and he got caneletto to paint four classic scenes of venice from memory so caneletta probably had a sketchbook but he painted these four works of memory and eventually one of them has found its way to the walls of the national gallery of victoria so these are some of the complexities of the grand tour it’s not a completely straightforward and that’s that’s some of the stories i’m going to unpack today as we go go along this tour is some of the back stories of these fascinating paintings and this one while you know it’s a classic scene of venice it is actually painted in england a more classic i think also another real classic scene of venice was actually painted by a guy called bernardo bellotto and he was caneletto’s nephew and he followed in his uncle’s footsteps painting these paintings actually he actually was in canaletto studio and for many many years a lot of his paintings were so similar to canelettos they were including this painting was considered a workshop painting by caneletto but looking at the paintings a little bit closer a lot of scholars decided that actually a lot of this some signature moments in these paintings that were more likely to be by leonardo bellocco and it’s this kind of interesting little ripple effect on the waves that that his uncle just doesn’t do and so only only a number of years ago only about five or six years ago this painting was firmly given back to canaletto’s canaletto’s nephew bernardo but it’s got a lot of his qualities what’s what’s fascinating with caneletto’s work and and bernardo bellotto’s work is that they’re really tight really linear pictures they’re so slickly painted they almost look like photographs and i think that’s what the grand tourist tourists were after they were after that that real snapshot of of venice or rome or naples at the time and this is exactly what ronaldo bellotto was able to provide with this wonderful image classical image looking towards the rialto bridge of venice it’s it’s again an absolutely classic quintessential painting one of the other things that the grand tourists were trying to remember or to emulate or to keep as memories were of classical rome and this worked by panini this is actually one of my favorite grand tourist paintings um because it has all the perfect qualities it’s actually of a humane sybil so it’s an ancient roman story from from classical history it’s set in a beautiful ruin in a beautiful roman ruin with the classical arches but why this is my one of my favorite grand tour paintings is because we know it was bought by by a gentleman called mr bright in the 1740s and he bought this painting from panini while he was on the grand tour and it stayed in the bright family until actually until today this painting was given to the ngv by one of one of mr bright’s uh one of mr bright’s descendants charles bright and he gave this painting to the ngv in 2001 so we virtually have a painting that was directly painted by by panini bought on the grand tour by mr wright and then comes to us at the ngv and it is a classic perfect grand tour painting and it’s more of a roman scene because it is it is what the it is what a lot of the grand tourists ended up in rome and they actually wanted these roman scenes and i and again it’s just a really uh really just a wonderful perfect perfect snapshot of a of of of what a grand tourist painting is all about because it is the fascinating back stories behind many of the paintings in the national gallery of victoria’s collection that are so fascinating and and the grand tour is helping us to unpack these one of the great puzzle paintings in the national gallery victoria has been a puzzle painting for many many decades is is this large and fascinating work by none other than batista tiapolo of the banquet of cleopatra fame why it was a puzzle is because for many decades nobody could work out who actually painted it this has been attributed to about half a dozen different painters and it’s problematic because it’s a grand tour painting one of the weird aspects of the grand tourists is they were very they were fascinated by earlier art of renaissance and and manora star but they’re touring in the 18th century and so there was this um there was this demand for paintings by earlier artists and an artist who they were particularly enamored of particularly in venice was paolo veronese at the great the great 16th century venetian manneris painter of great decorative paintings and for deca and this painting really is we was thought to be an 18th century pastiche or copy of a number of paintings by varanasi so there’s figures taken from other varanasi paintings the the costume is 60 is 16th century it was a real puzzle picture and it was given to many many artists because it was such a such a strange conglomeration how it came to be by tiefullo is also a fascinating story but it actually started out its life as by someone called benedetto cagliardi it was it was bought by the grand tourist on that tour by the earl of butte james stewart it was bought as a benedetto cagliardi but benedetto cagliari was painting in the sixth in the 16th century he’s actually paralog varanasi’s brother so this painting was was bought as a varanasi and we do know sadly for a fact that such was the demand for works by varenasia that even artists such as cagliari and even tiapolo did actually make copies of berenice paintings and pass them off as works by those by those artists not necessarily by veronas but perhaps by by unscrupulous dealers so we know this painting was brought in in the 18th century by an english by an english collector as a benedetto cagliari but you know it’s clearly by tiepolo the painting was cleaned by the ngv conservators about eight or nine years ago and it was discovered to be an autograph we were suspected it was a tiapolo but it was discovered through their research that it was definitely an autograph work by tiapola which moves it into the 18th century which makes it again a real puzzling picture and and the puzzle was really solved only only only three years ago when a version of this painting came on the market that was definitely by benedetto cagliari painted in the 16th century and it was this very composition and so what we now know is that tiapolo was copying a known composition by another artist and how we really got to unpack all this strangely enough isn’t from the painting but it was from the frame because these image these motifs on this frame were particular to the earl of buttes collection he his collection which is still mostly intact um on on on the isle of beauty is actually there are many frames which have these identical motifs on it and someone visited the ngb one day and recognized this as being from the butte collection and that’s how we were able to trace the provenance that’s how we were able to find out that that it was purchased as a benedetto cagliardi when it was actually a copy by tiepolo of aberdepo cagliari practically every painting in the national gallery’s collection of old masterworks have got a grand tour lineage or a history no i could talk about every work but i’m not really going to what i do want to talk about a few other little fascinating things and one was the obsession some of these collectors had with the classical past and what they what they saw on their grand tour and it even extended to how they had themselves sculpted or imaged because these these are two there’s a whole family called the shirley family and they commissioned a sculptor to to make themselves looking dressed in togas looking like roman emperors yes they had something of an ego but that’s the that’s the extent that the the grand tour had had really affected the psyche of british collectors and and and and life in britain itself and for the upper classes and the and the aristocrats in in england so they even commissioned these sort of marble clints which look a bit like italianate marble so they really did go to the nth degree some of these collectors and possibly a bit probably a bit too far to be to be quite honest and it wasn’t just aristocrats who went on the grand tour a lot of artists went on the grand tour because they they heard feedback on on how important the what was happening in europe was to the art scene so a lot of artists went on the grand tour as well and they actually studied italian painting and they looked and it really had a deep influence on their on their work and this is one particular artist richard wilson who went on the grand tour and he looked at a lot of italian painting and he looked a lot of italian landscape painting and it deeply affected how he painted when he got back to when he got back to britain this is essentially a scene in wales but you would swear it’s an italian painting that could easily quite happily be you know mount vesuvius almost in the background again he was catering to the taste as well of the aristocrats so he was trying to sell his paintings too and and that’s really again just another another angle on the on on the effect of the grand tour it even affected furniture on how and what furniture was made these are actually british furniture but you would swear that they they’re so so heavily influenced by by classicism we even have a kind of a classical urn and and just the shape of the proportions straight out of the straight out of a a handbook or a textbook on how to make uh classical furniture or classical classical italianate furniture so it it you know it permeated right through british society in the 18th century and we’re going to look at again what i well i said the panini was the quintessential uh grand tour painting but i think i could probably make the same claim for this extraordinary masterpiece by pompeo albertoni this well i i’m standing like a breaking record this is to me the quintus the quintessential uh grand tour painting this is actually a painting of one of britain’s elite aristocrats on the grand tour pompeo betoni was an italian painter painting in rome and his entire career was made by painting grand tour portraits of grand tourists he was the go-to guy he was the annie leibovitz of portraiture in in in rome at the time and so if you were wealthy enough and and you’re in rome long enough you would you would book a time for pompeo betony to paint your porch paint your portrait this just sums up the grand tour in in one in one quick bite that’s samson gideon a wealthy a wealthy english a wealthy english banker and this is painted in rome it’s set in rome we have classical ruins in the background we have a classical bust in the background he’s sitting on a near classical chair even the floor has no classical uh connotations to it we know when this was painted in 1867 wally was on the grand tour because he’s holding a miniature in his hand and he’s showing his friend we don’t know who the friend is unfortunately but he’s showing his friend a miniature and we’re pretty sure it’s a miniature of his wife maria and they married in 1867 so we know that if he’s looking at this portrait of maria in his hand we know that that was painted about 1867 and it was just at the tail end of samson gideon’s uh tenure on the grand tour so betony the the perfect uh grand tourist painter yes he made his entire career doing this and samson gideon is one of the the wealthiest and and wealthiest art collectors and great patron of the arts in in britain at the time and interesting thing about samson gideon’s collecting habits and his grand tour is that he took it beyond italy he actually he his tour went a bit further and he actually went to spain and spain started becoming being on the grand tour itinerary and the taste for spanish art in the in the 18th century really took off and this is where this painting comes in because this is a painting by bartolome esteban murillo he is the great great baroque painter great 17th century baroque painter working in spain there’s probably the three great painters were working at this time as velazquez and murillo but in the 18th century muriel was actually more popular and in greater demand than any of the other spanish artists in fact he was considered the equal of michelangelo in the 18th century he was that high in the echelons of art and this painting came out of a spanish church and it was bought by none other than samson gideon the gentleman we just saw he bought this painting or saw this painting while he was on the grand tour and so even though this is a 17th century painting and obviously not painted while he was on the grand tour that’s where the taste for old master paintings really grew in britain and it’s how we ended up with so many of the works in our collection because we bought so many of our old master paintings out of british collections that’s how it came into our collection via samsung gideon and even a classic painting that we that is one of the you know one of the great treasures of the national gallery it has has a a a a grand tour image as well and that is the pusam the great crossing of the red sea uh it was brought in in the 1740s by a british collector possibly bought it out of france but it’s what he would have seen and what he would have wanted to have as a collector it was actually painted in rome but was acquired by a french collector and so this is where this sort of movement of artworks is movement of people that’s happening around because of the grand tour is really affecting uh is affecting collecting patterns although all over all over europe and then impacting on what we we acquire here at the national gallery of victoria it’s how we’ve built up this extraordinary collection probably going to leave the tour here because as i said i could talk about every painting in the entire collection but that that would take us all day and i’m not really going to do that to you so thank you for your attention i hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of a fairly unknown aspect of this great collection of national gallery victoria if you’re interested in other tours of the national gallery victoria just tune into the ngv channel online thank you [Music] you
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Art Tour – The European Grand Tour

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