- Introduction: The Grand Tour
For many decades now scholars writing about the Grand Tour have enhanced our understanding of this distinctive social ritual by offering readers richly textured biographies and social histories of the individuals who went on the Tour and illustrated catalogs of the objects they collected along the way (the Tate Gallery’s The Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century, published for the 1996 exhibition, is the most recent, and probably the most lavishly illustrated of these catalogs). Much of this scholarship, however (including the Tate catalog), seems loathe to situate the Tour within a larger network of international travel and exchange that involved the circulation of bodies and luxury goods not only within Western Europe, but also between the European powers and their overseas colonies, and between Western Europe and other nation states.
That there is much to be gained by examining the Tour in relationship to other types of travel is confirmed by even a casual perusal of this visual and written material. Consider one of the most widely circulated compilations of travel accounts, the expanded edition of Awnsham and John Churchill’s A Collection of Voyages and Travels (6 volumes, 1704–32). This massive compendium of narratives of European travel to America, the West Indies, Africa, Japan, China, and many other points on the globe ends (or, perhaps more accurately, triumphantly culminates) with “A Journey through Part of the Low-Countries, Germany, Italy and France,” written by Philip Skippon from his own notes and those of the celebrated botanist John Ray. Consistent with the scientific interests of the travelers, this account combines descriptions of art works and antiquities with discussions (and numerous schematic diagrams) of ingenious devices, such as the Cavo-fango, a dredger used to clear mud from the canals of Venice. 1 Surely a key element in assessing the significance and impact of Skippon’s Journey is its inclusion in the Churchills’ Collection, where its celebration of Western culture and scientific technology invites comparison with narratives of exotic peoples and natural curiosities “discovered” outside of Europe. [End Page 87]
Just as modern writing about the Grand Tour often ignores other contemporary modes of travel and international exchange, it also all too often fails to take advantage of newer methodological approaches, such as post-colonial theory, that are being effectively deployed in current scholarship devoted to voyages, explorations, and tourism in general. 2 Until recently most accounts of the Tour have taken the form of biographies, social histories, and formalist art history (or some combination thereof) which are grounded in the precepts of empiricism and an essentialist notion of history and subjectivity. Lacking a critical theory of the subject and of representation, many Grand Tour studies are unable to analyze systematically the ongoing and often vexed processes of identity formation (both individual and communal) that are effected through the social exchanges, institutional forms, and representational practices involved in this particular form of travel. There are notable exceptions to this long-standing resistance to theory in the Grand Tour literature. A case in point is Transports, edited by Chloe Chard and Helen Langdon, which includes a number of essays directly concerned with the Tour that pay close attention to the way in which the fears, pleasures, and anxieties that accompany various types of tourist encounters with strange new bodies, places, and things are mediated through written and visual texts. 3 Refining the theoretical base, then, and considering the relationship between the Grand Tour and other forms of travel and exchange permit new and potentially challenging questions to be asked about it. Taking up three very different approaches and topics, the essays that follow pose just such provocative new questions and in the process ask us to reexamine our assumptions about the function and meaning of the Grand Tour for various types of communities and individuals.
Jules Prown’s “A Course of Antiquities at Rome, 1764,” examines an encounter between the New World and the Old in analyzing both the experience of the Grand Tour and its later effects on John Morgan and Samuel Powel. These two young men were from wealthy Philadelphia families and, after graduating from...