In the 18th century the Grand Tour became a rite of passage for young English Protestant aristocrats destined to assume their rightful place in government with an increased appreciation of the solidity and uprightness of English institutions.
The art they brought back testified to refinement as well as familiarity with the decadence and sensuality of Catholic Europe. Portraits encoded reference to the sitter as inheritor of the wisdom of ancient Rome and survivor of the sinful vices of Venice. Canaletto's veduta would fill private collections as testimony that taste was not just a virtue but a duty to one's country.
SYLVIA SAGONA is an internationally recognised specialist on 19th century French society. She retired from the French Department at The University of Melbourne to work on historical documentaries for French and Australian television and is currently researching a book on the invention of the restaurant in Paris in the 18th century.
image caption: Johan Zoffany (German, 1733 –1810), The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772-8, Royal Collection RCIN 406983