Roman Holiday
Take a Grand Tour at Bonhams New Dedicated Sale

London – The Grand Tour – the gap year (or years in many cases) of its day for European royalty, aristocracy and landed gentry – enjoyed its golden age during the 18th Century. Although most Grand Tours started in Paris, and for the more adventurous might end in Greece, Italy was definitely the place to be. Its cities – especially Rome – offered plenty of opportunity both for cultural development and for sowing wild oats safe from disapproving eyes back home. Satisfying the demands of the Grand Tourists for souvenirs became big business – almost every tourist would return home with something whether it was prints or sculpture or paintings. A new sale at Bonhams on Thursday 14 July celebrates the Grand Tour and its influence on European taste. It is led by The Portrait of Edward Solly by Pompeo Batoni, estimated at £120,000-180,000.

Batoni (1708-1787) was the greatest among a select group of fashionable portraitists who built their careers on commissions from overseas visitors. Two thirds of his sitters were from Britain and his portraits have left an invaluable record of the nation's gilded youth at play. The Portrait of Edward Solly dates from 1753-4 when the sitter was in his mid-twenties, somewhat older than the typical Grand Tourist. He is shown dressed in a fashionable style known as à la hussar. Hungarian hussars were considered romantic and dashing and their uniforms were often adopted as costumes to add a touch of glamour.

Lisa Greaves, Head of Sale, said, "This wonderful painting is typical not only of Batoni's approach – ever resourceful he was to re-use the pose in later paintings – but also of the souvenirs brought back from the Grand Tour. A portrait was de rigeur for many and Batoni was the painter most in demand especially among the British. And, of course, this dissemination of so many works of art had a huge influence on taste back home. The Warwick Vase, for example, found in Hadrian's villa in Tivoli and taken to Britain was greatly admired and much copied throughout the 19th century and well beyond. A Victorian example in silver is included in the sale."

Other highlights include:

Florence, a view of the Arno at the pescaia di San Niccolò by Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (Dutch, circa 1653-1736). Vanvitelli was among the founders of Italian vedute (view) painting and was one of the most successful Grand Tour painters of the early 18th century. One of his most significant British patrons was Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (1697-1759) who, during his six years stay on the Continent, purchased a total of seven works by him which now hang at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. Estimate £50,000-70,000.

A rare group of five Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea plates, from the Farnese service, circa 1784-88. The Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea factory opened in 1771-72 after the closure of the factory at Capodimonte and The 'Servizio Farnesiano', or 'Farnese service', was the first to feature landscapes to be produced there. The views on each plate are taken from after the famous five-volume 'Illustrations de Voyages pittoresques de Naples et de Sicile' of 1781 to 1786, by Abbé de Saint Non. Estimate: £20,000-30,000.

A pair of plates by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) comprising the Trajan Column and the Antonine Column in Rome. A trained architect as well as an artist (and very shrewd businessman) Piranesi pioneered the etchings of the ruins of ancient Rome known as Vedute (Views). Towards the end of his career he published Trofeo o sia Magnifica Colonna di marmo composta di grossi macigni ove si veggono scolpite le due guerre daciche fatte da Trajano from which these plates are taken. Completed in 113 AD, the freestanding Trajan's Column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which commemorates the leader's victory in the Dacian Wars. Similar in style and erected in the Piazza Colonna in 193 AD, the Antonine Column was commissioned by Marcus Aurelius's son Commodus to commemorate his father's glorious triumph over the Germanic Marcomanni tribe in 176 AD. Estimate: £20,000-30,000.

An Italian carved white marble sarcophagus, in the antique taste probably late 18th / early 19th century, in the manner of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (Italian, 1716-1799). Bartolomeo Cavaceppi's workshop in Rome was one of the most acclaimed destinations for British tourists in the second half of the 18th century. A sculptor by training he developed a business as a restorer and his appointment by the nephew of Pope Clement XI, Cardinal Albani, as his personal art restorer led to many commissions from foreign tourists, particularly British collectors. Estimate: £15,000-20,000.


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