“The Grand Tour was the ultimate rite of passage for the British gentry throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, usually a two-to-four-year period spent in Europe studying architecture, culture, geography, art history and language, particularly throughout Italy and France. Grand Tourists were known to return with crates of antiques and collectables which not only adorned the great houses of the UK but also had a major impact on design and architecture of the period. As these items became the pinnacle of taste, they formed the basis of the modern-day antique collecting market and whilst they have never fallen out of favour, today’s interiors tastemakers are increasingly using motifs inspired from these epic journeys throughout Europe in modern day design. For example, illustrations by the much-celebrated designer, Luke Edward Hall, have a clear Grand Tour focus, with roman busts, chariots and seahorses printed across ceramics, cushions for Habitat, trays for The Lacquer Company and even in his capsule clothing collection for Gant. Similarly, Bridie Hall is selling beautiful items such as intaglio cases which she describes as ‘inspired by the Grand Tour I never took’ from the eponymous store, Pentreath and Hall, whilst plaster-made classic-inspired busts and sculptures can be picked up everywhere from Vinterior to Anthropologie.

This trend is being echoed in the popularity of genuine Grand Tour antiques at auction, with classical sculptures and busts, vases, and models of iconic architectural structures increasingly sought-after. Today’s passion for individual and maximalist interiors, has helped ensure that they are now adorning the shelves of everyone from serious collectors to those just starting out. Grand Tour antiques and collectables encompass everything from genuine early antiquities to 19th century bronzes and models, urns, vases, micro-mosaics, antique models of ruins or important architectural sites and paintings or etchings of famous European views, particularly Venice and Rome.   

For those looking to build a collection of genuine Grand Tour collectables, these can range from a few hundred pounds for a small, unmarked, 19th century bronze to well into the thousands for iconic sculptures or models of key architectural sites. When it comes to artwork, key artists to look out for are the likes of Francesco Guardi, whose paintings tend to sell in the low thousands, as well as painters from the circle of the King of the Grand Tour views, Canaletto. These ‘veduti’, or Italian views, have a burgeoning market at auction for both etchings and also original oil paintings. Intaglio cases are also a good place to start, with plaster cast or stone medallions which would have embellished the libraries and cabinets of the well-to-do of the 18th and 19th centuries, now available to buy at auction from around £500, depending on quality and condition.

At the Cheffins Fine Sale on 21st and 22nd April, there is a good handful of genuine Grand Tour objects such as a collection of plaster medallions from the early 19th century and bronzes from a smart apartment in Albany, London. A series of Venetian scenes from a house on Wilton Place are also available and a collection of late 19th century Grand Tour bronzes and plasters, with estimates from £1,000 - £2,000. For the serious collectors, there is a Roman marble torso of Aphrodite dating back to between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD which is estimated to sell for £15,000 - £25,000.”

View the catalogue for the Fine Sale here: https://www.cheffins.co.uk/fine-art/catalogue-view,the-fine-sale_186.htm