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Travelling for culture: the Grand Tour
Travelling for culture: the Grand Tour

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2.3 The Grand Tour portrait: people and professions

You are now going to have a go at analysing another Grand Tour portrait by Batoni, using the example of Batoni’s portrait of Page-Turner that you looked at as a guide.

Activity 5

Look at Figure 7 and jot down your thoughts about its scale (use the caption information to help you), the setting, as well as the figure’s pose, gesture, expression and the colours used. Don’t worry about trying to identify all the objects, just note any that you think might be significant.

This painting is of a male figure standing in front of a background of ancient classical remains; the Colosseum is in the mid-distance to the left. The light source from the upper left highlights his face in profile as he looks to the right. His hair is drawn back from a high forehead; his nose is long and pointed. The man wears: a scarlet jacket decorated with gold braid and buttons; a kilt made of scarlet and green checked material with matching socks; a swathe of cloth of the same design is draped over his left shoulder, falling to the floor behind him. The man is posed with his left arm crooked at his side and his right arm extended sideways with a sword held downwards in his right hand. His left foot is placed on the base of a plinth bearing a pedestal on which the statue of a female figure in a classically draped garment sits facing left with an orb held out in her right hand. The foreground is scattered with pieces of ancient masonry. The sky, dark with clouds above the foreground, reflects silvery light in the distance.
Figure 7 Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Colonel William Gordon of Fyvie, 1766, oil on canvas, 290 × 217 cm. Fyvie Castle, Scotland.
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This portrait is on a much larger scale than the one of Page-Turner. However, like Batoni’s portrayal of Page-Turner, the figure is set against a network of vertical and horizontal lines made up by architectural shapes. These are created by the plinth on which the sculpture of the female figure sits and the setting of antique remains, but there are also diagonals in the architectural fragments at the figure’s feet. This geometric effect is softened by the inclusion of trees and foliage that appear stretched behind and above the figure, again creating the illusion that the picture carries on beyond the canvas edges. The figure is depicted full length, posed with one foot raised above the other, one hand on hip, the other stretched out to hold a sword, and wearing a determined expression. It’s also brightly lit, showing off the colours of his military uniform, tartan plaid and socks.

Like Page-Turner, Batoni painted Colonel Gordon (1736–1816) while he was on the Grand Tour, but Gordon’s portrait is not just that of a tourist since it brings the culture of ancient Rome into direct contact with his profession. Gordon is shown as an active figure, wearing the uniform of the 105th Regiment of Foot and grasping the sword he used as a threat to quash a revolt in the Houses of Parliament in 1780. However, he is also surrounded by ancient remains, including the Colosseum, and his tartan is draped in folds that recall those of a toga . The importance of place and military victory is reinforced in the orb and laurel wreath he appears to receive from Roma, the goddess of Rome, who is depicted in the statue.

This three-quarters portrait is of a young man who stands facing outward, his head slightly turned to the right. He has a high forehead, and straight nose and wears a wig drawn back from his face. He is lit from the upper left highlighting his clothing: a long blue silk robe trimmed with fur is worn over a pale blue silk waistcoat, which is decorated with golden embroidery. Underneath this is a white lace shirt with a high neck and white lace cuffs. His left arm rests on a sculpted capital positioned in the right foreground. He holds a scroll of white paper in his left hand and some dividers in his right hand. The background, in shadow, depicts a very large bell-shaped vase decorated with a frieze in the upper left section of the image (Figure 9). To the right is a sculpted figure in a niche.
Figure 8 Antonio Zucchi, Portrait of James Adam, 1763, oil on canvas, 173 × 123 cm.
This photograph shows one side of a marble bell-shaped urn, lit from front left against a black background. A round fluted pedestal rises from a square base to support the inverted bell-shape, which has a fluted handle on either side and a raised acanthus leaf design around its base; a frieze represents a series of raised figures on the main body of the vase: from left to right: an athletic young man, facing right, stands with one foot raised on a block; then two young women are presented one above the other. The lower figure sits on the ground facing right, her head turned forward; her upper body is naked. The upper figure, smaller in scale, stands facing right in a diaphanous robe. The next figure is a partially naked and athletically proportioned young man facing left with his right arm bent so that his hand almost reaches his chin. A further figure is just visible on the left side of the urn.
Figure 9 The Medici vase. Second half of first century CE, marble, height: 152 cm. The Uffizi, Florence.

Other professional men also saw the benefits of Grand Tour portraiture. One example was the architect James Adam (1732–1794), whose practice back home in Britain with his brother Robert was to enjoy huge success. The brothers designed country and town houses in a neo-classical style, that is one which reinvented the public architecture of ancient Rome by adapting its proportions and material forms such as domes and pillars. Antonio Zucchi’s portrait of James Adam was painted in the final year of Adam’s Grand Tour of 1760–63 (Figure 8). Almost overwhelmed by the huge marble urn to his right (known as the Medici vase, Figure 9), and with a figure of Minerva behind him, Zucchi shows Adam in a three-quarter length pose. The architect is depicted extravagantly dressed (like Page-Turner) but this is evidently winter, as he is draped in a fur-trimmed robe. Adam grips dividers in one hand, a rolled plan in the other. Zucchi signifies that although Adam might be dressed like one of his aristocratic clients, he is an architect, and one steeped in the classical knowledge necessary to his profession: the capital on which Adam’s left hand rests was his own design.