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A cultural European Grand Tour in the 1820s


1st May 2015 10:16
A cultural European Grand Tour in the 1820s

One of the concerts in our May 2015 Festival is inspired by the Grand Tour of Europe that the young composer Felix Mendelssohn made as part of his cultural education. We were delighted when long-standing supporter and Friend, Patrick Vaughan, told us that he had inherited the Commonplace books of his great-great-grandfather, Francis Dames, which include detailed journal records of his European Tours in the 1820s. We were delighted to include an article about this in our Festival Programme, on sale during the festival, but we did not have room to include as many of the journal extracts as we had wanted, and so they are posted here.

 

 

Further extracts from Francis Dames' Journal
 
Visiting the studio of sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777–1850) in Florence
I also amongst other studios visited that of Bartollini. Here you might imagine yourself back in England, for almost all the wealthy English who pass through Florence get a bust of themselves from Bartollini. And as I looked round the various models, I recognised many faces familiar to me; and in one room I saw a copy in marble of Titian’s celebrated Venus. Bartollini was executing it for Lord Londonderry, & he gave us an interesting account of the various difficulties he has had to encounter in procuring subjects sufficiently beautiful to model from. He takes each feature separately as he finds it in his subjects, which, according to his taste, are the most beautiful. The mouth he found the most difficult feature to procure a model for, and next the breasts; for, as he remarked, few women, except English women, present perfect models in that part.
 
I asked him what he paid an hour to a female for lying thus indecently exposed; he said 5 pauls, about 2/6 of our money. He stated that some female’s friend always accompanied the person who lay for the model. The price agreed on is 600 guineas, but Bartollini expects that Ld Londonderry will give him something more when he explains to him the difficulties he has had to encounter. The studio was hung round with proof engravings of all Wilkie’s pictures1.
 
English residents in Florence
The nobles are almost all poor, and are unable to occupy the whole of their palaces. They generally live in some one division themselves, & let the other parts to the English, the number of whom residing in Florence is very great.
 
Byron's mistress
I met last night at [Count] Demidoff’s Lord Byron’s Venetian favourite, La Guiccolli2. I should say she had no claims to beauty except as to her mouth. She has rather a round vulgar face and her auburn hair hung in profuse curls over her neck & shoulders. But who shall presume to account for the hidden causes of love and admiration.
 
Negotiating transport of his luggage (including a piano forte) from Naples to Sorrento
This day June 2d having made due agreement for our passage over in an 8 oared boat and for our luggage including a piano forte3 to be carried down from our lodgings at the Palazzo Esterhazy to the boat and again when we arrived at Sorrento to be carried to our house (for 6 piastres), we at 12 oclock came down to the shore to embark. But here a difficulty arose. We had procured a lascia passare [permit] for our luggage, piano forte &c, for here by a most inexplicable regulation merchandise of all kinds, wines & more particularly books, drawings, music and musical instruments, though the produce of the place are not permitted to be transported from one part of the same Kingdom to another without a duty payable on them, both leaving the one province and entering the other. It seems in this instance at least, so the Custom House myrmidons informed us, that notwithstanding the signatures we had to our lascia there was one omitted, namely that of his superior officer. In vain I offered him 6 carlines. He stood out for more, but I was resolute, and after detaining us a very considerable time whilst he said he was looking for his Captain who was not at home, he brought a child of about 9 or 10 years old who he said was son of the Captain and would answer as well. This was too much even for the boatmen and servants who were assembled. They all set up a great laugh which made the poor child begin to cry. The officer of the dogana pocketed the formerly refused carlines, and we embarked for Sorrento.
 
The passage over occupied about 4 hours and was very pleasant. The colour of the water of the Bay of Naples is a most beautiful blue, but as there is no tide in the Mediterranean there is not that variety of interest in the shores which a constant flux & reflux of the tide produces. Along the Naples shore a bad smell almost always prevails. The sewers of the city, and a dirtier city can not be imagined, all empty themselves into the sea, and as they are not immediately carried off by a change of tide, they produce a smell by no means agreeable.
 
Pic nic parties from Sorrento
Mrs Starke who has published that very useful book Informations for Travellers on the Continent resides here every summer & we have with one consent chosen her a Queen of Sorrento, and a most hospitable court she keeps. She has frequent pic nic parties to all the places worth seeing around, and what is particularly pleasant in these parties is that she will not allow any person to take any trouble about them except herself. She has a whole pic nic service consisting of wooden spoons, forks, strong glass & delft &c &c which with abundance of provisions and plenty of the best of good old Falernian she always sends on before hand. The party proceeds to the appointed place mounted on mules & donkeys, as few of the roads on the plain & none of those on the mountains admit of any other mode of conveyance. Sometimes the party goes to Pompeii and nothing can equal the kindness and good nature of her gracious majesty on these occasions.
 
1 Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841), Scottish artist famous for his genre paintings and portraits.
 
2 Teresa Guiccioli, whom Byron first met in Venice in 1819. She divorced her husband, and she and Byron lived together first at her brother’s near Ravenna, and later at Pisa. The relationship continued until Byron’s death in 1824.
 
3 Almost certainly an instrument of the square shape, which would have been light enough to transport in the manner here described.
 
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