The Grand Tour


Fall 2011


5th Floor Classroom


Jeffrey L. Collins

Beginning in the seventeenth century, a growing stream of influential Europeans traveled south in a ritual journey now known as the Grand Tour. This Bildungsreise, often conceived as the capstone of a young man’s (and occasionally woman’s) formal education, was designed to expand the traveler’s historical, economic, political, and cultural reference points while honing or reorienting his or her aesthetic tastes. Following an often standardized itinerary including Paris, the Alps, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples, these travelers (as well as the tutors, artists, and assistants who accompanied them) formed a vector for intellectual and cultural exchange that helped transform European art and thought. This seminar examines the Grand Tour as both a historical and artistic phenomenon, asking why travelers went, what they saw, whom they met, what they acquired, and how their experience transformed their vision of the world. Drawing on New York collections, we will study the Tour’s visual and material culture, including not just the souvenirs purchased by rich northerners but the concomitant objects, rituals, and spaces—from elegant salons to fireworks displays and new public museums—created by their hosts. We will also examine the Grand Tour’s lasting visual and material legacy, from the spread of new styles and patterns of patronage to the cultivation of new forms of living and thinking that increasingly unified Europe. 3 credits.