This essay is a much fuller, longer version of the article published as part of the catalogue for the Exhibition show at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, and at the Ashmolean in Oxford in 2012-2013.
The English Prize: The Capture of the “Westmorland,” an Episode of the Grand Tour.
The extraordinary cache of cultural treasure stowed away in the hold of the Westmorland, along with its commercial cargo of anchovies, olive oil, anchovies, silk, salt paper and boxwood, provides us with a unique insight – a sort of archaeological cross-section – into the material culture of the grand tour. Its twenty-three crates of marble pieces, thirty-five of marble fragments, and twenty-two boxes of portraits, prints and books, contained consignments for a variety of clients. These included the wealthy twenty-one years old west-country gentleman, Thomas Basset; his tutor, William Sandys; the twenty-two year old Viscount Lewisham, the future earl of Dartmouth, who was to feature in Zoffany’s famous composition of Englishmen gathered in the Tribuna of the Uffizi in Florence; Frederick Ponsonby, Viscount Duncannon, a stripling of twenty, and three famous British antiquaries: the Catholic Charles Townley, the Welsh magnate, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, and the banker Lyde Brown, all of whom were to become members of London’s Dilettanti Society, a body that combined classical learning and libertinism. There was also some royal booty on board: several boxes were intended for the Duke of Gloucester, George III’s brother, who had just completed his second tour of Italy with his wife Maria Walpole.
At first sight, then, the evidence derived from the Westmorland seems to fit easily into what has become the familiar story of the Italian experience on the Grand Tour, one dominated by the travels of rich young men, and by the plunder of the cultural riches of Italy in order to acquire a cosmopolitan taste and civic-mindedness embodied in objects of virtu – classical antiquities and fine art – purchased in Italy and ostentatiously displayed at home. Though this is certainly a part – an important part – of the tale of the Westmoreland and its treasures, such a narrative, as much recent scholarship has come to suggest, replicates a partial story that does not do justice to the disparate individuals (dealers, bankers, sea-captains, soldiers and sailors, painters and restorers, porters, guides and cicerones, the inn-keepers, tailors, servants, chaplains and priests, shopkeepers and tradesmen), and complex processes (involving networks of diplomacy and patronage and markets for money, trade, goods and sex) that both made such tourism possible and thrived upon it; nor does it reveal the disparate, varied and eclectic taste of much of the collecting that accompanied such travels. To examine (grand) tourism from the (grand) tourists’ point of view – to stand in their shoes – a position taken by so many students of the grand Tour – entails a range of assumptions, particularly about the formation of taste and the creation of collections, that as we shall see, turn out to be at best to be misleading.
What is most striking about the treasure trove aboard the Westmorland was not that it was seized by a hostile foreign power or that it ended in a foreign academy. Such hazards were manifest in the long delays between the commissioning or purchasing of works of virtu and their arrival back in Britain. Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, for example, had been waiting for Meng’s painting of Perseus and Andromeda (and, as it turned out, in vain) for nearly a decade. The slow passage of goods was the subject of much justifiably anxious correspondence between tourists and collectors and their agents back in Italy. Thus the experienced tutor, Thomas Brand, fretted in a letter from Florence to his sister in 1793 about materials he had sent home: “it is now nearly a year since they were packed up. I begin to be very uneasy about them for there were many valuable things And Prints which I would be very sorry to lose”.
The capture of British goods (as well as British subjects) happened during most of the wars that punctuated the eighteenth century. Thus in 1707 and again in 1709, Sir John Perceval’s public-minded plan to ship his “valuable collection of books, paintings and statues, antiquities” acquired in Italy back to Dublin for “the use of an academy of painters…in Ireland” was thwarted by their capture by two sets of French privateers. In 1745, Joseph Leeson, another wealthy Irishman, lost “£60,000 worth of goods, and many statutes [sic], pictures, etc”, again to the French. And when the Revolutionary armies successfully invaded Italy in 1797, they seized a vast quantity of loot from British collectors, including much of the earl of Bristol’s collection, “that immense, valuable and beautiful property of large mosaick pavement, sumptuous chimney pieces for my new house, and pictures, statues, busts and marbles without end, first rate Titians, and Raphaels, dear Guido, and three old Carraccis”. The capture of the Westmorland was just one of the many hazards (like breakages, mis-direction, and damage by the elements) faced by grand tourists seeking to get their goods home.
More revealing is the variety of the Westmorland’s contents and what they disclose about grand tourists’ collections after the 1760s. Take the crates of marbles and fragments. As Viccy Coltman remarks in her recent analysis of their contents, “the status of the sculptures cased on board the Westmorland was as diverse as the objects themselves, with examples of ancient and modern works, or a marriage of the two, serially produced small-scale antique sculptures, original productions, restorations, and portrait busts by Christopher Hewetson.” The candelabra, inlaid tables and fireplaces, like the volumes of Piranesi engravings, the numerous vedute of the Italian landscape and engravings of classical antiquities, the small copies of major works of art, the models of temples, pieces of volcanic rock, and the numerous books, guides and maps all spoke to an exceptionally mediated tourist experience that was less about a direct confrontation with the ancient world, its taste and values, than with commercialized forms of contemporary tourism. The contents of the Westmorland were not shaped simply by the taste of a few discerning aristocrats, but by the vigorous intervention of a series of intermediaries whose power over the Grand Tour and travel in Italy had steadily grown.
How did this come about? The process was a complex one. In part it was a consequence of the changing English population in Italy. There had always been a substantial British commercial and diplomatic presence in the peninsula, as well as a large number of British Jacobites and Catholics in Rome, where the court of the Stuart Pretender was based. But from the mid eighteenth century the British communities in the peninsula grew larger, not just because of the growth and increasing variety of Italian tourism (the presence of tourists and semi-permanent residents who by no stretch of the imagination could be described as grand tourists), but because of the rapid increase after the 1750s in the number of British artists resident there, especially in Rome. At the same time the tour itself became less and less exclusively the experience of young men, as more and more aristocratic women and families traveled to Italy. The lists of the bon ton resident in Italy and Naples during the winter published in the English newspapers of the 1790s contained numerous family parties.
It was not simply the British community but the circumstances of tourism that changed. Politically the Stuarts and their Catholic followers became increasingly marginal in Rome, encouraging more Protestant and Hanoverian visitors, no longer so afraid of political contamination. The Italian authorities, especially the Papacy and the Neapolitan monarchy, recognizing the political value of tourism, and both, in their different ways, pursuing policies of autocratic Enlightenment, took much greater control of the tourist industry and used it for their own ends. Finally, partly because of these changes, but also because of shifts in taste both in Britain and elsewhere, the experience of Italian tourism shifted. It still was heavily involved in Italian art and antiquity, but these were often framed in less explicitly didactic ways and much more as producing certain sorts of emotional and aesthetic experience whose enjoyment was the object of tourism. Italy became less a place to pursue classical erudition and more a rich environment in which to explore a repertoire of feeling.
The Welsh artist and pupil of Richard Wilson, Thomas Jones, who lived in Italy between 1776 and 1783, once remarked that there were three groups of Englishmen in Rome, the painters, the “mezzi cavalieri …who lived genteely, independent of any profession” and the “Milordi Inglesi”. In seeking to move beyond the perspective of this last group, we should not however occlude it. It is worth beginning with the conventional story of the aristocratic Grand Tour, so that we can refashion or re-tell it in another way. Its protagonist was a young man (any where between 16 and 23), a wealthy aristocrat or gentleman, often educated at Eton, Westminster or Harrow, and with some experience of residence in an Oxbridge college, especially Christ Church. Of the travelers with goods on the Westmorland, Francis Basset attended both Eton and Harrow, which was also Lewisham’s old school; Watkin William Wynn was a pupil at Westminster; Lewisham and Ponsonby both attended Christ Church, Oxford. This was typical of the English milords. As the rather boorish young Marquess of Kildare wrote to his mother from Turin in the summer of 1768, ‘we are about ten English at present, and eight of us were at Eton together. It is amazing how one picks up our old Eton acquaintances abroad. I dare say I have met above forty since I have been in Italy’.
Grand tourists normally travelled first through France, stopping, often for some time, in Paris to see the art, the court and fashions, before journeying south. Often they spent some time in the Loire valley to perfect their French language (the region was believed to speak the purest French). They then travelled to Italy either by sea from a French port to Genoa, Lerici, Civitavecchia or, most often, to Livorno (Leghorn) or – with increasing frequency later in the eighteenth century – by crossing over the Alps. The overland route was safer than the journey by sea, offered the prospect of a visit to Voltaire at Ferney (in 1763 he was the host of Lord Abingdon, John Byng, George Macartney, Lord Mountstuart, the earl of Holdernesse and Robert Piggott), and the chance to enjoy the spectacular and sublime scenery of the Savoyard glaciers and the Alps, sites that attracted the special attention of Francis Basset in 1777. Many then visited the city of Turin, the seat of the court of the king of Sardinia (where attendance at the Academy, a sort of finishing school for young men said to employ “the best dancing master in Europe”, was the norm), and then moved at a leisurely pace down Italy – taking in (inter alia) the cities of the Po valley, Florence, perhaps Siena, then a real sojourn at Rome (which was always crowded with tourists during Holy Week), a winter flight to Naples, that from mid-century almost certainly took in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and return via Venice. Of course, as Jeremy Black reminds us, there were many alternative itineraries – the journey to Sicily and on to Asia Minor became more important with the Greek revival at the end of the century – and military conflicts often affected the tourists’ routes; but the core of the tour was through France and Italy.
Such trips might be protracted. Thomas Coke, aristocrat, began his tour in 1713 when he was fifteen; he was accompanied by Dr. Thomas Hobart, a fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge (his bear-leader), and spent nearly six years traveling, four of them in Italy. But later in the century tours tended to be shorter, and tourists often paid more than one visit to the peninsula. The new pattern is clearly discernable in the milords who had materials on the Westmorland. Watkin William Wynn had completed his tour between August 1768 and January 1769. Lewisham, Duncannon and Basset had all arrived in Italy in the autumn of 1777 and had left by the following May. Lyde Brown had been in Italy from May 1776 until early 1777. The Duke of Gloucester’s most recent visit to Italy lasted somewhat longer, from September 1775 to August 1777; Charles Townley’s final visit to Italy was much briefer, including only the first four months of 1777. Many of these men made more than one tour. Townley, a Roman Catholic who devoted his life to collecting antiquities and who had been educated on the Continent, made three trips between 1767 and 1777. Brown, Duncannon, Basset and the Duke of Gloucester all made more than one tour, including at least one in the company of their wives and children. (On two of the Duke’s tours he was accompanied by a mistress – Madame Grovestein in 1771 and Lady Almeria Carpenter in 1786.)
Milords, as we can see, did not often travel alone. James Clitherow (another Christ Church man) believed that embarking on his tour on his own in 1789 was worthy of comment, but he soon hitched up with a friend in Switzerland. Many grand tourists had an entourage of followers and friends; quite a few journeyed with school chums. In 1782 the uber-rich William Beckford’s traveling band, replete with artist (J.R Cozens), tutor, personal physician and harpsichordist and a bevy of servants, was so great that when he was traveling south through Augsburg he was mistaken for the Emperor of Austria. At the very least a Grand Tourist was accompanied by a tutor whose task was to keep his charge out of trouble, and ensure that the educational goals of the trip were in part fulfilled. Many were clerics, some were fellows of the ancient universities and a few were remarkably erudite. Francis Basset was fortunate in his instructor. William Sandys was the son of one of Basset’s butlers, educated at Oxford, a cleric, well traveled in Europe and an enthusiast for history and antiquity. The two men got on well (quarrels between tutors and charges were common), and remained good friends for years, sustaining their amity through a mutual interest in virtu and memories of their journey together.
En route, the tourist used several of a growing number of guidebooks, employed local cicerones, and took courses (especially in Rome) to understand the antiquities and architecture of the Ancient world. He had his portrait painted – the most desirable portraitists were Rosalba Carriera in the early part of the century, but by the time of the Westmorland’s capture Mengs and Batoni were by the far the most fashionable. (Her cargo contained Batoni portraits of both Lewisham and Basset, as well as examples of the popular portrait busts executed by the Irish sculptor, Christopher Hewetson). In addition the Grand Tourist bought what works of virtu he could find and afford, as well as memorabilia, casts of sculpture and copies of paintings, shipping his loot back home. The more enthusiastic tourists continued to buy from Italy on their return and maintained the contacts they had made on the peninsula (again this was true of Basset), and many were elected to the Dilettanti Society or the Society of Antiquaries a few years later.
For the young men who undertook the tour it was an educational rite of passage and often a moment before they took up their public duties – as magistrates, landlords and politicians – and fulfilled their dynastic obligations through marriage. It looked back to their schooldays, where most had been brutally tutored in the classics, and forward to their life in polite society, and it was intended to shape a certain sort of individual, knowledgeable about classical antiquity, modern taste and other nations, but resolutely British. The experience was built around a shared culture, the knowledge – prior to Italy – of classical texts. Tourists were instructed in how to think and see things “classically”. This meant more than the acquisition of a certain sort of knowledge; it entailed the cultivation of a certain way of seeing the world, what Lord Palmerston, who made three tours to Italy between 1763 and 1792, called “a disposition of mind” or, as James Boswell put it, fretting about his own ability to achieve it, “a mind … well furnished with classical ideas”. The object of the direct observation of classical antiquity was to understand classical civilization and its values, especially its supposed commitment to public spirit. As Chesterfield put it in his famous letters to his son: “View the most curious remains of antiquity with a classical spirit, and they will clear up to you many passages of the classical authors”. In fact the process was more commonly the reverse, and, in a highly scripted experience, the landscape and antiquities of Italy were seen through the writings of Virgil, Cicero, Horace and the Roman historians. What the young milord observed was thus both tantalizingly novel and comfortingly familiar. Thus Lord North wrote to his tutor:
“You know that the road from Rome to Naples abounds with classical amusement: I can assure you that the road from Naples to Paestum is no less amusing in the same way. There is scarce a town, a rivulet, a hill, or a valley, that is not mentioned & even distinctly pointed out in some of the antient writers. Those travelers, who are well read in them, & who have already made the same journey several times in their imaginations, are highly pleased to find themselves in a well-known country. Almost every spot they see, and every step they take, recalls or refreshes, confirms or clears up some old Idea”.
More than one tourist remarked on how their journey would have been boring without this prior education. The 2nd earl Mornington, wrote of his tour in 1790-1: “all the old ideas of Eton and [Christ Church] Oxford employed my mind” without which “I think the journey through Italy would lose the greatest part of its amusement”.
For the classically educated, and this included tutors and many genteel visitors, Italy was saturated with classical allusion – Italy was a land of texts. The Irish clergyman, Martin Sherlock, on his tour of 1778-9, wrote that his greatest pleasure was to have “his Horace in one pocket, and his Virgil in the other, and to look at a thousand objects which have been painted by these masters”. Knowledge of the classics was itself an incentive to visit Italy. The twenty-one year old 8th Duke of Hamilton (Eton) had “not read the Roman classics with so very little feeling as not to wish to view the Country which they describe, and where they were written”. The philosopher David Hume on his arrival in Italy “kist the Earth that produc’d Virgil”. The erudite Scottish baronet, Sir James Macdonald (Christ Church), who was to die prematurely in Rome in 1766, similarly declared that, “the satisfaction of treading that ground [Bay of Naples] with Virgil in your hand is inconceivable”. A year later, the physician Lucas Pepys (Christ Church) used the same language, saying that to tread the same floor as Cicero was “a kind of delightful dream …which cannot be expressed”. Like Pepys, many of the travelers were reading or re-reading the classics as they journeyed. Many of the coaches they used had special book shelves or “a wooden case which serv’d for a traveling library” filled with guide books and classical texts, such as that carried by Thomas Chinnal Porter (Christ Church). [i]
This view that the relics of Italy provided privileged insight into the past was more often than not based on an exemplary notion of history, which was itself derived from Cicero. The Grand Tourist was, as Viccy Coltman has pointed out, a sort of time traveler, eager to get past the present and to inhabit a Roman world and imbibe its values. Thus John Northall, the author of Travels Through Italy published in 1766, explained that, busts of classical figures: “standing, as it were in their own person before us, gives a man a cast of almost 2000 years backwards, and mixes the past ages with the present”. This was the spirit in which one tourist was urged to purchase busts of Cicero and Seneca “to inspire good morals and Patriotism to certain Bucks who begin to prefer amor pecuniae to the inestimable amor patriae”, and in which many grand tourists had their portrait busts sculpted in the Roman manner by Hewetson, Wilton and Deare.
This imaginary journey into the past, transported by classical ruins and antiquities and accompanied by classical texts was, of course, intended to create a certain sort of person, a polished aristocrat or gentleman, who by virtue of these accomplishments enjoyed a certain social advantage. Aristocrats, the boys from Eton and Christ Church, themselves rarely commented on this – they had no need to do so – but those on the periphery of ‘the bon ton’ or who were seeking to enter its charmed world revealed the tour’s purpose. Bland Burges, whig politician and polemicist, who was to become a baronet and a member of parliament, was under no illusions about the value of his (rather brief) Grand Tour of 1773 to his social advancement: I resolved, he wrote, “to place myself on a footing in life which the education my father had given me, and the polish I had obtained on the Continent, enabled me to support. I had indeed considerable advantages; such as being an excellent Latin and Greek scholar; talking French and Italian perfectly; dancing, riding, and fencing well; playing the harpsichord, guitar and violoncello. These I considered as my fortune, and with these determined to work my way”. A member of the minor Yorkshire gentry, without public school or Oxbridge education, Robert Grimston told his parents in a more modest fashion that he intended on his tour “to polish myself so far that when I come home again you shall all wonder and say Is this the clownish school boy, whom I knew two years ago”.
Such, of course, was the ideal of the Grand Tour, but to what extent was it realized? The British periodical press and the graphic satires of Pier Leone Ghezzi, with their images of dim-witted, ignorant young men, led by their tutors, deluded by foreign manners and outwitted by foreign sharpers, provide a sharp contrast with the educational ideals of virtu and classical civilization. And many tutors, who struggled to contain their charges wilder behaviour and to focus their attention on their education, took, it must be said, a jaundiced view of their charges and their experiences in Italy. The cleric Joseph Atwell, who accompanied William, 2nd earl Cowper (who, by all accounts was well behaved and attentive to his studies of antiquity) nevertheless complained of “Boys just escaped from the lash of a severe Master, & the tedious confinement to Books and Studies [who visit a] Foreign Country where they first give a full swing to their Passions, & lead such Lives as they are sensible would be attended with shame at home”. A generation later the refrain was little different. John Hinchcliffe, later Master of Trinity Cambridge, who led John Crewe (Westminster and Christ Church) on his tour in 1761-62 grumpily concluded, “I cannot see what has induced the generality of travellers to extol this country [Italy]…for my part I am satisfied that the dangers of travelling far exceed the boasted advantages ….& young men must have an extraordinary share of prudence to return home with as few vices & follies as he set out”.
Tutors complained about the drunken high-jinks of their charges, like the kicking of tradesmen, ejecting of coachmen and riding on horseback round the ramparts of Turin observed by the British diplomat there, Louis Dutens. No-one liked the provocative conduct of someone like Thomas Lyttelton (Eton and Christ Church) who ran up (and didn’t pay) huge gambling debts in Venice and fought two duels in Bologna, all in the space of a few months. But the real fear was sexual, the Grand Tourist’s contraction of an undesirable disease or, even worse, an undesirable alliance. Parents, guardians and tutors warned not just against “drink, gaming” but “all improper connections” with Italian women whom Lord Kinnoull told his ward were “bewitching sirens who fascinated young men if they were not upon their guard”. Lady Charlotte Burgoyne complained, “The turn of all women in that country [Italy] is gallantry … I have no idea how anyone can live in Italy, that does not give themselves wholly to passion”. Anxiety (and prurience) focused on the practice of Italian married women taking a cicisbeo, a male admirer and publicly-paraded companion, who, as James Boswell found out in Siena, sometimes became a bedfellow. As Thomas Watkins commented in his published letters from his 1787 tour, “Before marriage their women are nuns, and after it libertines”, a condition he explained by the practice of forced marriage, in contrast to the British way of allowing brides to choose their groom. Certainly Italian women acquired a notorious reputation among English men. As Richard Cosway wrote to Charles Townley from London, “Italy for ever say I – if the Italian woman fuck half as well in Italy as they do here, you must be happy indeed”.
Grand Tourists, rich, young, often exploitative and sometimes gullible, took full advantage of the freedom from home. The nineteen-year old Sir John Rawdon was said to be “prodigiously in love in every town he makes any stay in”; Augustus Hervey cut a swathe across Italy with numerous lovers in Florence, Genoa and Naples during the 1750s, while Henry Seymour Conway wrote from Florence: “There are but two things at all thought of here – love and antiquities, of which the former predominates so greatly that I think it seems to make the whole history and the whole business of this place”. Some milords got themselves into serious scrapes. On his tour in 1769-72, for instance, the young Lord Lincoln was swindled out of 12,000 guineas by his lover, a Venetian dancer, and her accomplices.
Private sexual intrigue was not incompatible with the pursuit of virtu. Augustus Hervey found time between his conquests to visit the galleries of Florence, sketch ruins and visit Pompeii and Herculaneum. The culture of the connoisseur, as the circles around such figures as Charles Townley and Richard Payne Knight, and clubs like the Dilletante make clear, easily conflated the private pursuit of sexual pleasure with the joys of collecting and displaying objects of antiquity and virtu.
But for many of the young grand Tourists, the study of art and antiquity was a chore. George, 9th earl of Winchelsea, (Eton and Christchurch) was tickled pink to be included in Zoffany’s portrayal of the Tribuna, but complained of the ignorance of “about 9 tenths of the women & 2 3rds of the Men [who] have never been in the Gallery”. Some years earlier, one of the sons of Baron Milton, together with Captain Howe, had been taken to the Uffizi. “They submitted quietly to be shewn a few pictures. But seeing the Gallery so immensely long, their impatience burst forth, and they tried for a bett who should hop first to the end of it”. The 4th Duke of Gordon (Eton) was privileged in 1762-3 to have the great antiquary and historian, Winckelmann as his cicerone, but he “showed scarcely a trace of animation as he sat in his carriage, while Winckelmann described to him, with the choicest expressions and grandest illustrations, the beauties of the antient works of art.” Thirty years later Thomas Packenham, Lord Longford, repeatedly expressed his antipathy towards Rome and its antiquities, complaining of having “to stand an hour hungry & cold under an ugly old pillar of marble while a prosing antiquarian harangues on the merits thereof – all this because ‘it is the custom’”, and tartly concluding that this is “not the place for me”.
Young men seem to have found the courses in Roman Antiquity given by guides like Colin Morison and James Byres especially taxing or, as the army officer Pryse Gordon put it, “irksome”. Peter Beckford, the author of the lively Familiar Letters from Italy to a Friend in England (1805), recalled of his six-week course with Byres in 1766: “no school-boy toiled harder or at time more unwillingly; hurrying over pleasing objects to visit stones and rubbish of very little importance, for what – to say I had visited all the antiquities of Rome”. Even the famous historian Edward Gibbon commented with characteristic understatement that during his eight week course with Byres in 1764 his “powers of attention were somewhat fatigued.” For all the young tourists knowledge of classical texts, understanding classical antiquity was not easy. Few, however, were as outspoken as Lord Rawdon who commented on his tour of 1772-3 that “surely one visits the greater part of the antiquities for the sake of having it to say that one has seen them, than from any prospect of receiving either instruction or pleasure from their examination”…. “I know that this is a very heterodox opinion, and that I shall be looked upon as a barbarian by the generality of the people for not admiring any thing that was antique. I must own that I think we carry our admiration of the ancients too far – in praising their works, we are too apt to forget those of modern times, many of which would perhaps on impartial examination surpass some of the most boasted pieces of antiquity”.
More modern painting was perhaps a little easier to appreciate and certainly easier to acquire, but it still proved baffling for some. Sir Gregory Turner (Eton and Oxford) the twenty-year old charge of William Patoun, who led five separate parties on the Grand Tour during the 1760s and 1770, self-effacingly wrote home that “he had passed through Parma, Regio, Modena & Bologna, in all which towns I saw several very fine original pictures, as Mr Patoun tells me, for I do not pretend to be a judge myself”.
Of course there were also Grand Tourists who took their task seriously, and whose experience informed their tastes and interests for the rest of their life. Edward Gibbon managed no fewer than fourteen visits to the Uffizi in his four months in Florence. Thomas Egerton, baron Grey de Wilton (Christchurch), filled 74 pages of his journal with notes from his course on antiquities with James Byres in 1785, visited artists’ studios and commissioned a number of drawings. Some years earlier another Christ Church man, Francis Hastings, 10th earl of Huntington, praised by Lord Chesterfield as a “bright exemplar of the union of scholar with man of the world”, was reported in Florence as having “learned Italian to a surprising degree of perfection in a month, and which he studies for three hours every morning, and then passes as many more with Dr. Cocchi and his medals, after which he stays till past four in the Gallery to examine the statues and busts with [sculptor Joseph] Wilton”. A few tourists made important contributions to antiquarian knowledge. The drawings and notes of Sir Roger Newdigate, who made two tours, one as a callow twenty-year old in 1739-40, and again in 1774-5, uncovered new antiquities, detailed the holdings of the Uffizi and the presentation of classical sculpture. Other tourists developed their own speciality. The future diplomat, Thomas Robinson, for example, spent much of his time examining the leading contemporary portrait painters, comparing (and describing in considerable detail) the differences between Batoni and Mengs. As his surviving books and collections make clear, Francis Basset was another such assiduous grand tourist, using works in Italian and French, as well as English, to guide his studies.
It is striking that, Basset excepted, a great many of the more assiduous participants in the tour were not striplings fresh out of school and university, but men of more mature years. Repeatedly – and to the chagrin of their young charges – tutors expressed greater enthusiasm and displayed greater knowledge of the arts and antiquities they studied. When we turn to the question of collecting – a tangible and costly commitment to the pursuit of virtu – then the most important collections were just as likely to be assembled by middle-aged or married men as by youthful boys. Admittedly, early in the century, when it was much easier to acquire antiquities and pictures, especially if you were a Catholic or a Jacobite sympathizer, a number of young men assembled important collections. The Jacobite Duke of Beaufort was only twenty-one when he shipped ninety-six cases of paintings and antiquities out of Italy in 1728; John Bouverie, another Jacobite, began his collections during the first of his three tours in 1741 at the age of nineteen; and famously Thomas Coke, later earl of Leicester (and a true Whig and Protestant) was not yet twenty when he acquired his first treasures for Holkham Hall.
But this was much less true in the second half of the century. The Catholic collectors, Charles Townley and William Blundell, began collecting in their thirties and fifties respectively. The 9th earl of Exeter, who assembled a formidable collection of Old Masters during two visits to Italy in 1763-4 and 1768-9, was in his forties. Patrick Home, later Lord Wedderburn, born in 1728 began collecting on a trip with his wife to Italy in 1771. The notoriously capricious 4th earl of Bristol, one of the most prominent figures in the British community between the 1760s and the beginning of the nineteenth-century (he made five trips to Italy) started to collect in his forties. The earl of Shelburne was a young widower of thirty-three when he began to assemble his great collection for Lansdowne House, and William Weddell was not much younger when he exported over one hundred and twelve cases of marbles from Italy back to Newby Hall in 1765. This was not a hard and fast rule. There were exceptions – young men of great wealth like George Grenville, later Lord Temple, who wanted to acquire “a collection of marbles …inferior to few north of the Alps”, and Watkin Williams Wynn who spent over £2,000 in a matter of a few weeks in Florence and Rome, even before he reached his majority – but putting together a collection of any quality was either the work of many years – often begun on a second visit to Italy – or could only be achieved by using certain agents.
Many of the collections accumulated in the first half of the century were the personal projects of men of great erudition who were the friends and companions of Italian virtuosi and aristocrats. Men like Sir Andrew Fountaine or the Jacobite non-Juror, Richard Rawlinson were able to assemble large collections of medals, drawings, prints, sculpture and cameos through the good offices of Italian antiquaries who shared their enthusiasm. Erudition not aesthetics was their priority. They tended to agree (though with occasional qualification) with the Cambridge divine Conyers Middleton who explained to Horace Walpole that he collected curiosities not “out of any regard to their beauty or sculpture, but as continuing what the Italians call erudition”.
This antiquarian view of art and antiquities linked collecting to the accumulation of expertise; display, though important, was secondary. Such collecting was therefore rather different from the sorts of shopping expeditions undertaken by some Grand Tourists that seem to have had very little to do with erudition and everything to do with home decoration. Lord Malton, later the Marquis of Rockingham, was eighteen when he arrived in Italy in 1750, but his chief purpose was less his education than the assignment given him by his father to buy works of art to decorate the family’s massive country house, Wentworth Woodhouse, and outstrip the décor of nearby Raby Hall, the home of his Yorkshire neighbour and rival, Lord Strafford. Malton’s time was absorbed in buying pictures and commissioning customized copies of the finest antique statues for display in Wentworth Woodhouse’s Great Hall. Other shoppers of this sort included the third earl of Dorset, who paid for a series of paintings and then marbles for Knole on his trip in 1770-1, John, first Viscount Spencer, who purchased works by Salvator Rosa, Gavin Hamilton and Guercino to decorate the ballroom of his London residence, Spencer House, and William Weddell who bought almost his entire collection (which was to include the Barberini Venus) as a vast job lot from the dealer Thomas Jenkins. Lord Shelburne’s arrangement, made with Gavin Hamilton, during his brief tour in the summer of 1771, required the artist, dealer and antiquary to provide sixteen statues, twelve antique busts, twelve basso-relievos, eleven large historical pictures, and four landscapes of the Trojan War within a period of four years (and at a price of £6,050) to decorate his town house in Berkeley Square.
This sort of collecting, which was matched by the long-term accumulation of antiquities and pictures by figures like the earl of Bristol, Charles Townley and others, took place in a very different environment from earlier in the century. Though British diplomats and merchants, such as Consul Smith in Venice, Sir Horace Mann in Florence and Anthony Lefroy in Leghorn, had long been involved with Grand Tourists, providing banking facilities, introductions, and themselves acting as art agents or developing significant collections, their numbers and importance increased during the second half of the century. No figure achieved greater stature than Sir William Hamilton, whose power in Naples both as Bourbon courtier, British guide, collector and vulcanologist was unsurpassed, but figures like John Strange in Venice, and John Udney, also from the Veneto successfully combined careers as diplomats, scholars, collectors and dealers. Similarly, though there had always been dealers helping those in pursuit of antiquities and art – Ignazio Hugford, son of the English watchmaker to the Medici court in Florence, for example, and Mark Parker in Rome, who obtained eleven export licences for statuary and reliefs between 1738 and 1745 – none could match the power and importance of Thomas Jenkins, Gavin Hamilton and James Byres in Rome, men at the the pinnacle of what had become a growing and sometimes lucrative profession. Paradoxically, though there were more dealers than ever before, there was also an extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of a very few men.
These developments have to be seen against the background of changes in the size, scope and nature of the British population in Italy. Perhaps the most important of these was the rapid growth of the community of British artists in Italy (chiefly Rome) from mid-century onwards. In the first half of the century a few well-known figures, such as the architect William Kent, the connoisseur, Jonathan Richardson Jnr, and the painter Allan Ramsay, spent time in Italy, but it is only from the 1750s that painters, sculptors, architects, and engravers arrived in significant numbers. The roll-call was illustrious and included, painters like Joshua Reynolds, Richard Wilson, Gavin Hamilton, George Romney, sculptors such as John Flaxman, Joseph Nollekens, and Christopher Hewetson, and architects like the Adam Brothers. There were many other less bright lights who worked in the shadow of such luminaries, all of them driven by the taste for Italy, classical antiquity and the grand manner, and the desire to use their Italian education as a means of artistic advancement. As the architect, William Chambers. put it, “Traveling to an artist is what the University is to the Man of Letters, the last stage of a regular education”.
Artists of all sorts tended to stay much longer in Italy than the general tourist. Taking a sample of seventy painters, architects and sculptors who visited Italy after 1760, their average length of stay was nine years. Many were funded in the first instance by private patrons (Watkin Williams Wynn supported the Welsh artist, William Parry, for example), or came in the baggage train of a wealthy Grand Tourist, as the watercolourist J.R. Cozens did in 1776 with Richard Payne Knight and again six years later with William Beckford. But every bit as important were the new art institutions in Britain which offered stipends for study in Italy: the London Royal Academy, the Dublin Society, the Society of Arts, the Dilettanti, and the Foulis Academy of Glasgow. The effect of an Italian sojourn on the career of an artist varied. Some, like Joshua Reynolds, Richard Wilson, and Allan Ramsay used their Italian experience to enhance their reputation when they returned home; others, like the Scots Gavin Hamilton and Jacob More “the best painter of air since Claude” according to Reynolds, remained to enjoy high regard in Italy itself. Some, like George Stubbs, were not impressed; and some, like the long-forgotten William Theed, were downright miserable. But all the artists in Italy regardless of their reputation had to make a living; very few were like Prince Hoare “with an independent fortune of two of three hundred a year”, who relied on private means. They did so in a variety of ways and they were to become, as we shall see, central to the tourist industry as it was to flourish in the second half of the eighteenth century. Most were involved in the business of making copies of old masters for travelers; others made drawings and watercolours of the Italian landscape as up-market souvenirs; some provided instruction to gentleman amateurs; many performed minor services as required by the richer grand tourists; some acted as guides or cicerone; and some became dealers in art and antiquities. Sculptors produced busts of tourists in the classical manner, copied the great statues of antiquity, made vases, chimney-pieces and tables. A small group, which combined several of these functions, became enormously powerful and rich, and stood at the centre of the entire Italian tourist industry. The most famous included Thomas Jenkins, born in Rome in 1722, trained as a painter, acted a banker, guide and dealer for some of the most important collectors, notably Charles Townley; Gavin Hamilton, neo-classical artist, dealer and archeologist; and James Byres, a Scottish Jacobite and Catholic, painter and architect, close friend of Batoni, chiefly in Old Master paintings – notably Poussin – and small gems, cameos etc.
Along with the artists, there was an ever-growing number of travelers in the Italian peninsula whose purpose was neither art nor antiquity: lovers of music, especially opera, like the historian Charles Burney, the singer Elizabeth Billington and the composer Michael Kelley; classicists and philologists in pursuit of manuscripts in the peninsula’s great libraries; book-collectors and dealers, intent on acquiring materials from impecunious Italian aristocrats; doctors eager to observe dissections and the medical models and collections at the universities; scientists and vulcanologists who wished to observe experiments or witness volcanic eruptions.
A great many travelers were not so much drawn to Italy as fugitives from Britain. This was obvious for many Catholics and attainted Jacobites. Others, like the 5th earl of Cork, fled to Italy to escape creditors and establish “a scheme for economy”. (The cost of living a genteel life was about half that of Britain, hence the growing number of retirees in Italy). Even more ran away from familial or amatory misfortune; widows and widowers, like the artist William Parry whose second Italian trip was made with “the wish of stifling the regret for the loss of an amiable wife”. Disgruntled wives, jilted lovers and errant husbands were to be found in abundance, though few were as unfortunate as Louisa Clarges, whose trip to Italy in 1782-3 was prompted by the almost simultaneous deaths of her father, husband and son. Then there were the fugitives from justice like the notorious libertine, Lord Baltimore, accused of raping a Quaker woman, who thought it prudent to tour Italy in 1770, accompanied by what observers called his ‘seraglio’. And then there were the elopements and fugitives from polite society because of an inappropriate marriage. The most famous examples were, of course, the Hanoverian royals – George III’s dimwitted brother, the Duke of Cumberland, dubbed by the Florence emissary, Horace Mann “the royal idiot”, who went into temporary exile after his illicit marriage to Lady Anne Luttrell was publicly exposed; and his sickly brother, the Duke of Gloucester, whose goods were on the Westmorland and who had traveled to Italy with his wife, the illegitimate Maria Walpole, once he was forced to tell the king of his marriage after his wife’s pregnancy.
In Italy it was easier to remain in polite society because its rules were more lax: hence the number of exiled gay men like the artist George James, characterized by Mrs Piozzi as “a Finger-Twirler”, Dr William Thomson, a gay geologist who helped William Hamilton in his work on Vesuvius, and Lord Tylney “who coud not resist the temptations & instigations of a passion, contrary to reason, & at which nature shudders”, and so spent over thirty years in Florence and Naples. And so too the presence of free-spirited, sexually-independent, often intellectual women like Lady Wortley Montagu and Margaret Rolle, Countess of Orford who spent thirty six years in Italy, accompanied by a variety of men.
There was nothing to prevent those who fled from scandal at home, a scene of grief, or even a crime, from taking an interest in classical ruins, modern art, or the values of ancient civilization. Sir Thomas Worsley, a fugitive from one of the most embarrassing divorce cases of the eighteenth century, used his exile to patronize contemporary artists and sculptors, and to accumulate a major collection of Greek sculpture, as well as cameos and precious stones. Indeed, it was hard to resist such involvement, because so much of the social and economic life of the British and Italian communities, especially in major cities, was bound up with the business of culture. Its font was, of course, the very wealthy (hence Gavin Hamilton’s repeated call “to pray for a lord”), because they injected huge amounts of money into the Italian economy. Lord Malton’s shopping spree in 1748 cost £1,500 in its first year; Sir Henry Featherstonehaugh laid out the same sum in just two months in 1776; Lord Palmerston claimed to have spent £9.000 during his tour of 1792-4. Not all of this money was disbursed up front – the earl of Bristol, for example, was notorious for not honoring his commissions and debts – but it was the life blood of what, by the time the Westmorland was captured, had become a highly developed a tourist industry. Mrs. Piozzi, traveling with her new Italian husband in 1784 was struck with the force of Voltaire’s remark that “Italy was now no more than la boutique, and the Italians les marchands fripiers de l’Europe.” Voltaire’s comment was characteristically tart, condemning Italians as sellers of “cast offs” (marchands fripiers were sellers of secondhand clothing), but it exemplified a growing anxiety that what could be bought in Italy by tourists was not so much the genuine article as a simulacrum or pastiche. This was certainly the view of Edward Clarke, the companion of Lord Berwick and Henry Tufton and later Professor of mineralogy at Cambridge during his tour of 1792-4. He discouraged Lord Berwick from “meddling with antiquities”, claiming that Rome “has been so long exhausted of every valuable relic, that it has become necessary to institute a manufactory for the fabrication of such rubbish as half the English nation come in search for every year”.
This concern reflected the very real difficulty that tourists had in obtaining antiquities and art works of real quality. (As early as 1748 Malton had written home to his father that “I hear it will be impossible to have antique statues”.) This scarcity was in large part the result of the growing recognition of the Papacy and secular monarchs like the King of Naples that Italy’s cultural heritage could be of great benefit – as a diplomatic tool, a means of monarchical aggrandizement and in stimulating the local economy – provided it was conserved and controlled by Italians. In 1733 Pope Clement XII, perhaps mindful of the losses to British collectors like Thomas Coke, who acquired two masterpieces of Antiquity a ‘Lucius Antonius’ and a Diana, and even more so of losses to the Kings of Poland and Spain, who took large parts of the Chigi, Albani and Odeschalchi collections, bought up all of Cardinal Albani’s remaining antiquities for a new museum on the Capitol. He thus initiated a policy and process that culminated in the construction of the magnificent Museo Pio-Clementino, the star attraction for tourists in Rome, not completed until the 1790s. The decisive changes occurred during the Papacies of Clement XIV (1769-74) and Pius VI (1775-99). Facing another wave of losses of Antiquities (as much to other parts of Italy as to abroad), Clement acted decisively. As Jeffrey Collins explains, ““Clement’s Mattei purchase, together with roughly contemporary acquisitions from the Barbarini, Fusconi, and Verospi collections, helped turn the tide by reasserting papal rights and, more important by inducing the Pope to create his own antiquities museum [at the Vatican] rather than further enriching Rome’s civic collection at the Capitoline”.
Classical antiquity became subordinate to a Papal agenda. There were strict and not easily evaded controls over the exportation of antiquities; a few choice pieces were sold off as political favors, as in the case of the Endymion acquired by Gustav III of Sweden; less accomplished or more damaged versions of sculptures already in the Papal collections might get an export license, as well as sculptures whose erotic or suggestive content were considered unfitting for a papal museum; but first refusal went to the Pope and his Antiquary. This meant that the finest antiquities could be admired (in museums) but almost never acquired (for display back in England). As Haskell and Penny conclude in their canonical account of taste and the antique,
Despite what appeared to be unlimited wealth, no English collector was able to buy any of the really celebrated antiquities in Rome. Sculptures were acquired from almost every established collection – but they were not the most famous pieces: it is in fact impossible to trace to an English collection any piece of antique sculpture which had previously been illustrated in an Italian anthology of the most famous and beautiful statues with the exception of Coke’s Diana and ‘Lucius Antonius’.”
Even the acquisition and export of lesser works of antiquity depended on papal license. Access to and good relations with the Pope and his officials was absolutely essential to the trade in Antiquities.
The supply of Antiquities was not of course fixed, but also depended upon new discoveries made through excavations. Again, the Papacy controlled these through a system of licenses that also required excavators to offer the best works to the Holy See. This did not diminish the number of digs. Indeed, in the first five years of Pius VI’s reign (1775-80) – the Pope was himself an enthusiastic collector – about 130 licenses were issued for excavations within the Papal States. But it did mean that the best finds were at the disposal of the Papacy.[ii] Of course such rules and regulations could be subverted by smuggling, bribery and the connivance and complicity of Papal officials, but they were nevertheless an obstacle to the British collector that was not easily overcome.
Similar developments occurred in Naples, where the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii, though criticized by Winckelmann, came under the strict control of the government (visitors to the sites, as they endlessly complained, were not allowed to take notes or make sketches), while the king established a museum for the archaeological findings in a suite of rooms in the Portici Palace.[iii] For a long period the Neapolitan monarchy also resisted the publication of engravings of the newly found antiquities; the nine folio volumes of Anticita di Ercolano were privately distributed as presentation copies, and only from the 1770s did the contents of the excavations gain wider currency. You needed to visit Naples to see its treasures.[iv]
Both the Kings of Naples and the Popes were aware of the diplomatic value of their treasures, their use to secure and cement valuable strategic friendships. Goethe may have been surprised to find items that probably came from Herculaneum and Pompeii in Sir William Hamilton’s collections, but this sort or privilege was part of diplomatic currency. The Hanoverians and their subjects were also beneficiaries in the Papal States. Britain’s growth as a global power, a pro-English faction in the Papal court, and the luke-warm Catholicism of the young Pretender (whose almost permanent and frequently public inebriation made him a risible tourist attraction and an embarrassment) led, as Ilaria Bignamini pointed out, to a major shift in Papal policy in the 1760s. The Young Pretender was not recognized as the British king when his father died in 1766, and from 1763 a succession of Hanoverian royals visited Rome, albeit in a private capacity. The Pope’s pro-Hanoverian politics was signaled by the sale of Cassiano dal Pozzo’s paper museum to George III, by a repeated preference for British excavators in the granting of licenses, and in the privileges accorded the Duke of Gloucester in the 1770s.[v] Gustav III of Sweden, among others, enjoyed this sort of diplomatic privilege – in return for greater toleration of Catholics within his dominions he was allowed to purchase and export a classical sculpture of Endymion with which he was particularly infatuated– but the British gained most.[vi]
There were several effects of these policies of state control (which were in turn part of an agenda of Enlightened absolutism), but perhaps the most important was to place an enormous amount of power in the hands of those intermediaries who had connections to the Vatican and who understood how to negotiate the complex politics of the Papal See. Here three figures dominated affairs at the time of the Westmorland’s capture: the Jacobite, Catholic and Scots cicerone and dealer, James Byres; the Scots artist, archaeologist and dealer, Gavin Hamilton, the man with “more true taste than any body at Rome”; and the Italian born English artist turned dealer and banker, Thomas Jenkins.[vii] All three were rivals, but all three also worked together, and they operated something like a cartel, controlling travelers and collectors’ access to antiquities, art and Roman society, and managing and influencing artists’ access to potential patrons, as well as to major works of art they wished to copy. There were other dealers and cicerone, notably the modest and upright Scotsman, Colin Morison, but none had the power and influence of these men until the unstable politics of the 1790s and the French invasion of Italy opened up possibilities for a new generation of middlemen.
As the Welsh artist, Thomas Jones, commented in 1780, Byres and Jenkins had “for years had the Guidance of the Taste and Expenditures of our English Cavaliers, and from [their] hands all bounties were to flow”.[viii] The two men came out of different environments. Byres was part of the Catholic, Jacobite and Scottish circles that had dominated the trade in culture in Rome for more than a generation – he was a client of the Jesuit and antiquary, Abbe Grant; Jenkins, whose original connections were Whig – and quite radical – and who the old leaders of the trade tried to shut out in the 1750s, built up a formidable network of his own. The painter, James Northcote, who complained bitterly of “those cursed antiquaries” who controlled art patronage, moaned that Jenkins’s “gate and stairs used to be lined with petitioners as it was in his power to make the Pope do as he pleased”.[ix] Jenkins was the special favourite of Ganganelli, Pope Clement XIV. Jones reported that “if that Pontiff had lived a little longer, it is said he might have been made a Cardinal if he chose it”, while the Jesuit antiquary Father Thorpe blamed Jenkins for a situation in which “no regard here [Rome] is for Catholicks, the protestants are the first in favour, & to whom nothing is to be refused”.[x] Gavin Hamilton’s power came less from hard-nosed business acumen – Jones’s forte – but from his acknowledged expertise as an antiquarian, and from his energy and skills as an archaeologist who was responsible for some of the most important discoveries of the 1760s and 1770s.[xi] But like Jenkins, who survived Ganganelli’s premature death and remained in the good graces of his successor, Hamilton knew the importance of papal support. When Pius VI was elected to the Pontificate, he gave him one of his best antiquities, a magnificent bust of the Empress Sabina.[xii]
The power of these middlemen had a number of effects. First, it was well nigh impossible to acquire antiquities of any quality without their cooperation. For the richest and most ambitious collectors like Townley and the earl of Shelburne their work was essential. But this also meant that the middlemen had an opportunity to shape taste. They were, after all, buying and recommending works that they had either discovered, bought or for which they were acting as consignees. The collectors were sometimes buying sight unseen, though they were usually supplied with drawings of the pieces on sale. The surviving correspondence between Gavin Hamilton and Lord Shelburne, in which he promised to “make Shelburne House famous not only in England but all over Europe”, shows clearly the extent of the formers ambition, his determination to shape not just Shelburne’s collection, but the manner and environment in which it would be displayed.[xiii] Art historians, finding him a little too close to trade, have been more reluctant to give Jenkins a part as tastemaker. But in a case like the Newby Hall collection, it is difficult not to accept Jenkins’s assertion that he had Weddell’s confidence ‘in the Choise [sic] of his Collection of Paintings and Sculpture”. [xiv] Weddell spent a mere twelve weeks in Rome, spoke little French and less Italian, and bought the bulk of his collection from Jenkins’s stock. He could never have formed such a collection so swiftly without the help of such a broker.
The powerful middlemen at the height of the Grand Tour were also the conduit to the growing tourist trade in simulacra, copies, pastiche objects and souvenirs that, as the hold of the Westmorland testifies, were a large part of the collections of the tourist. The difficulty of securing genuine antiquities and old master paintings, explains the vigorous trade in casts – in a wide range of qualities – and copies of different sizes and in different media. The presence of large numbers of artists in Italy – not merely the British, but German, French, Swiss as well as native engravers, jewelers, sculptors, and painters – sustained a flourishing business not just in original contemporary work, much of it designed to commemorate the experience of Italy and the tour (vedute of the countryside and antique ruins, drawings of antiquities, portraiture of the tourist in both two and three dimensions, modern history painting), but also versions of the masters like Raphael and Guido Reni, and copies of the canonical statues whose originals could only be seen in museums. From workshops like those of the famous engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi (dubbed disparagingly by Jenkins as “Cavalier Composito”) came works made up of antique fragments or furnishings such as candelabra and fireplaces in the antique manner, as well as the more famous volumes of prints that made up such an important part of the Westmorland’s cargo.[xv] Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, the chief Papal restorer, and his pupils, including the British sculptor Joseph Nollekens, were all implicated in a trade that produced not just heavily restored antiquities with modern appendages, but high quality copies.[xvi] Many great works and grand objects were reproduced on a smaller scale: in bronze statuettes little more than a foot in height and (by the 1780s) as biscuit-ware figurines. There were other keepsakes: Nathaniel Marchant’s exquisite gems after sculpure in the Pio-Celemtino, smalti filati mosaics, decorated fans and the feather flowers packed in the Westmorland’s hold.[xvii]
Classical education – a classicism that, in the British case, emerged from the reading of the great authors of Roman antiquity – produced, by the late eighteenth century, neo-classicism, a commodified and commercial version of classical culture which prized the original but also valued the copy and simulacrum. Ancient texts produced modern décor; erudition spawned an aesthetic vision. Major works of antiquity, the embodiment of classical virtue, were seen and admired by many in their captive state, safely shut up in Italian museums; they were pursued by some, and successfully collected by a very few. In their place, as the crates from the hold of the Westmorland attest, Grand Tourists, with the aid of a formidable army of helpers, agents, artists and accomplices, were able to assemble a version of their experiences in Italy which would, in happier circumstances, have been displayed as a memory of Italy and a monument to their owner’s taste.