Cameos from the Grand Tour: The Paintings of Pompeo Batoni

For wealthy young men in the eighteenth century, the 'Grand Tour' was the climax of their education, explains Hugh Belsey in this article. And as a souvenir of their travels, a portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni became almost de rigeur.

From Rome on April 12th, 1758 George Lucy wrote to his housekeeper at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire:

'I have shown my face and person to the celebrated Pompeo Battoni, to take the lines thereof, I have sat twice & am to attend him Again in a day or Two; They are great men and must be flatter'd, for 'tis the Custom here not to think themselves obliged to you for employing them, but that they oblige you by being employed.'

Lucy had been abroad for nearly two years and his journey would clearly not have been complete without the Grand Tour portrait by Batoni which is still at Charlecote. The portraitist's prices were cheap by comparison with his English contemporaries, with the added attraction of proving that the portrayed had travelled south of the alps, had experienced the antique first-hand and had sat to a painter of the Roman School who was a direct inheritor of Raphael. Perhaps George Lucy, in many ways an untypical sitter, did not fully appreciate the subtler aspects of Batoni's work and position in Rome.

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