Art Appreciation No.2.

U3A Art Appreciation : No.2.

Grand Tour Reflections.

A while ago we discussed a painting, hanging on the walls of Cheltenham Art Gallery, titled ‘The Duke of St.Albans and his family’.

Smuglewicz, Franciszek; A Family Group of the 5th Duke of St Albans; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-family-group-of-the-5th-duke-of-st-albans-62041

Smuglewicz, Franciszek; A Family Group of the 5th Duke of St Albans; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

It has been assumed that this was a record of the family on a Grand Tour in Italy – although, usually, such excursions were made by young men accompanied by their tutor. This seems more like a short package tour, with a resident artist recording the event for the family to take home, hang it in their house encouraging admiration and envy.

The group discussion here in Cheltenham thoroughly explored the painting, its meaning, and its social context. It seemed generally agreed that the painting somehow seemed ‘unrealistic’ – almost like a stage set with ‘props’ (bits of ancient sculpture and architecture).  Perhaps it was not even painted in Italy! – but back in England where a rather ‘hack’ artist sketched individual members of the family and then ‘composed’ a required, appropriate, setting.  This ‘staging’ was not unusual at the time – major artists like Reynolds and Gainsborough at times followed the same practice : Gainsborough’s ‘Mr & Mrs Andrews’ or Reynolds, Earl of Egmont and his second wife..

20 Gainsborough NG

Gainsborough, Thomas : Mr & Mrs Andrews : Nat Gal. London.

Reynolds, Joshua; John, 2nd Earl of Egmont and His Second Wife Catherine; Bradford Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/john-2nd-earl-of-egmont-and-his-second-wife-catherine-23029

Reynolds, Joshua; John, 2nd Earl of Egmont and His Second Wife Catherine; Bradford Museums and Galleries.

It is, of course, necessary to add that the Earl of Egmont and Mr & Mrs Andrews are firmly planted on British soil!

Reference to the Grand Tour reminds me of an interesting snippet gleaned in my researches into Lord Northwick and his Art Collection – Lord Northwick of Northwick Park, Blockley, and Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham.  As a young man (then Sir John Rushout, Baron) Lord Northwick spent some ten years on his Grand Tour, mainly in Italy where he made the useful acquaintance of several significant cultural figures. He was an enthusiastic collector – initially of medals and cameos. In the 1790’s he had made the acquaintance of another English young Traveller – John Merritt of Rokeby who, in a letter home, made the following comment :-

‘His acquaintance we have formed some time, we were both medalling, but, however, in a very different way, as his collection is upwards of twelve thousand, and he gives up his whole time to it from morning to night.  In short, he is a most excellent antiquarian, which I am not; has a smack of the baronetcy, which I have not; and looks much oftener at Julia Mammea and Faustina the Younger than he does at pretty women about him – which I do not.’

 

 

 

 

 

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