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grand Tour


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Pompeo Batoni (1708—1787) painter and draughtsman

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An extensive Continental journey, chiefly through France, the Netherlands, and above all Italy, sometimes in the company of a tutor, to complete the education of an aristocrat or gentleman (a few women also made such journeys). The origins of the Grand Tour go back to the 16th century, but its heyday was the 18th century, when it was an almost obligatory part of the tutelage of the sons (or at least eldest sons) of noble families in Britain (similar tours were also undertaken by young men from other countries, but they are associated above all with British travellers). The traveller was usually aged between 17 and 22 and the tour typically lasted a year or longer. Such tours laid the basis for many art collections among the landed gentry, helping to spread the fashion for Neoclassicism and an enthusiasm for Italian painting. Among the native artists who catered for this demand were Batoni, Canaletto, Panini, and Piranesi, and British artists (such as Gavin Hamilton, William Kent, and Joseph Nollekens) were sometimes able to support themselves while in Italy by working for the dealers and restorers who supplied the tourist clientele, particularly in Rome. There was also a flourishing market in guidebooks (see Richardson). Between 1792 and 1815 the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars virtually ended foreign travel, and although the Grand Tour resumed after this, its golden age was over. By the middle of the 19th century, railways were beginning to open up Europe to middle-class travellers and the Grand Tour was defunct.

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