Some English travellers of the Campanian Grand Tour
In: Studi e Ricerche del Parco Archeologico di Pompei: 43, 2020
The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando has among its collections a series of books, maps, paintings, sculptures and artistic objects from the 18th century acquired in Malaga by King Carlos III through peculiar circumstances. They are souvenirs sent by a number of British travellers who had been in Italy during the previous months. The prized ship was the Westmorland, sailing from Leghorn to London in December 1779. Shortly after the departure, it was captured in the Mediterranean by the French fleet based in Toulon; both the ship and the cargo were sold some days later in Malaga. The news of the capture spread quickly, and the Spanish king decided to acquire the cargo for his Academy of Fine Arts. Once in Madrid, the crates with their content were inventoried. They all bore the initials of their owners and appear on the various lists that have been preserved. Thanks to this, we now have a source of information to know who the paintings, sculptures or books that the ship was carrying belonged to. Names such as Francis Basset, Lord Duncannon, Viscount Lewisham, John Henderson and others have been identified. But the most interesting thing is that the contents of the drawings and the books, often noted, give us precise information about the routes those travellers took in Italy. Many had been to Genoa, Florence, Rome and, when the Carnival season, to Naples. There was the Special Envoy Sir William Hamilton who informed the voyagers’ parents about their sons and the tutors. He also opened the doors for certain visits either at excavations, the museum of Portici or the royal sites. The first contact with the Vesuvius or the excavations of Pompeii and surrounding areas was part of the tour and education of those young aristocrats. For this purpose, they acquired books, maps and views captured by the artists from whom they bought works of different quality. The entire journey to the Kingdom of Naples and the two Sicilies of the young English travellers from 1777 to 1779 can be precisely traced. Those who went to Benevento to see the arch of Trajan, those who moved around the Campi Flegraei, others who ventured to Cumas drawing sketches of the Arco Felice and those who visited Virgil’s tomb and the Grotto of Posillipo. There are testimonies of all this in the Westmorland’s cargo. Sometimes because they acquired books and prints. Also, because they took their own notes, as Lord Duncannon did. From this, Hamilton writes to his father, Lord of Bessborough, appreciating his special skill in drawing. Presumably some of the sketches and watercolours are his. The works and documents related to the Westmorland are a first-rate source for studying the Grand Tour. They are also a source of information on the artistic and cultural life of Italy in the seventies of the 18th century. In this case, some books, prints and souvenirs have been selected to illustrate the journey of these young British men through the places of the kingdom of Naples that were waiting for them year after year to make some tours that were previously prepared for them. The documentary collection kept at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts has been presented through several monographs, but there is still much to be studied in order to learn in depth about the many aspects surrounding this educational journey known as the Grand Tour.