See also the article "Migrations et identités artistiques" in the EHNE.
Since ancient times, travel has been one of the cultural practices used for the acquisition and dissemination of learning and knowledge. Famous people, landscapes, and monuments that were considered exemplary, particularly impressive, or the embodiment of perfect beauty, were visited outside of one’s own national boundaries. In antiquity, the Romans oriented themselves toward Greece, whereas in modern times, Italy and France, but also the Netherlands, England, and Switzerland were the main focal points. Occasionally, attention was alternatively directed toward countries that were thought to have either no or only limited cultural importance. The northern Alpine territories of the Holy Roman Empire were thus emphasised, along with Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
Travelling for the sake of education and knowledge acquisition was practiced by Europe’s social, scientific, economic, and artistic elites. In the following, I will restrict my observations to the tours of the patrician and aristocratic bourgeois elites, for whom travel constituted a prestigious form of “socially appropriate absence”.1 The dominant, non-professional forms of travel among the European nobility between 1550 and 1750 were called the Grand Tour and the cavalier’s tour. Such a journey involved integrating into a temporal-spatial arrangement visits to special academies for training noblemen, universities, courts and cultural monuments of all kinds. It was moreover assigned to a particular phase of the young nobleman’s life, namely after the completion of his home tutoring and before he began to lead an independent existence by taking on an official post and getting married. Through this cultural practice, new room to manoeuvre was made available to the young nobleman, who was given the opportunity to prove himself in the world. By traveling to a foreign country, he was expected to solidify his status within his own society. Travel, however, also helped to define gender differences between men and women, as men had the chance to distinguish themselves as the cosmopolitan and culture-bearing sex, whereas women were relegated to the domestic-parochial sphere and ascribed a greater affinity to nature.
Cavalier’s Tour vs. Grand Tour
Cavalier’s tour and Grand Tour are not congruous. The phrase “Grand Tour”, a term of the 17th century that was at least familiar in England, the Netherlands, and Germany (groote tour, große Tour),2 remained in use only in the British Isles and, today, generally has a broader definition in the Anglo-Saxon research. Accordingly, trips designated in this way include those taken by a person later in life or in connection with their profession. It further chiefly refers to travels to Italy,3 although British travellers also often completed the same tours that were typically taken by their continental peers.4 It is also possible to notice a narrowing of the research with respect to the 18th century, and though “Grand Tour” would otherwise match what is known as “Bildungsreise” (“educational journey”) in a German context, the latter is mostly identified as a bourgeois phenomenon. In Anglo-Saxon research, on the contrary, the Grand Tour is understood as a mostly aristocratic pursuit. The terminology currently in use is therefore strongly influenced by national-historical differences. Just the same, it would nevertheless seem accurate to understand noble-patrician cavalier’s tour, the students’ peregrinatio academica and the professorial-scholarly trip as parallel, class-based forms of travel that transformed in the 18th century to the European tour of the educated classes, the latter being a type of travel that appealed to the nobles and bourgeois alike and already demonstrated signs of a “composite elite”.5
Differences with regard to expense and the social sphere of action, however, could always be cultivated and were never completely overcome, even though the apodemic literature (introductions to the art of travel) of the Enlightenment urged readers to refrain from unnecessary luxury. The duration of the journey, the size of the suites, means of transportation, accommodations at the respective destinations, clothing, etc. still offered opportunities for reinforcing social distinctions. In reference to travel for the purposes of education and knowledge acquisition, it is thus possible to find a tendency in German research to further differentiate the travellers in terms of their various social reference groups: alongside the Grand Tour, therefore, patrician,6 princely7 and scholarly travel8 are also identified. Even so, such distinctions are purely heuristic tools that have, moreover, occasionally led to an overemphasis on the distinctive character of travel.9 This is not to deny that travel practices have mirrored social rank and status: the image one forms of early modern travel for the purposes of education and knowledge acquisition undoubtedly depends on the rung of the social ladder from which such travel practices are examined. In the UK, where the topic has become so popular that it has inspired television series,10 the research has paid special attention to the travel of the British aristocracy. This is not least due to the fact that the British aristocracy had attained a state of wealth following a century of revolutions in the 18th century that had no equal in the rest of Europe. British barons and dukes frequently enjoyed levels of affluence similar to dukes, electors and kings in the German territories, definitely exceeding the wealth of German imperial knights, barons, and earls (not to mention of the territorial nobility). Just the same, the political participation of British high aristocracy was different from that of the self-governing nobility in the Holy Roman Empire. They were not part of ruling dynasties and thus far freer to live as they pleased, but also had to compete for influence, offices, and honours within their society. The Grand Tour was a means of affirming rank and station and yet at the same time of signifying one’s patriotism. The British aristocracy understood like no other national or territorial noble elite how to use the representational media at their disposal to embed the Grand Tour in the collective memory of the nation. This strategy was ultimately so successful that British historians in particular continue to describe this form of travel as one that was dominated by British travellers.11
A number of studies on travellers from other countries, however, have now provided ample evidence that the travel practices under discussion here were a virtually pan-European phenomenon.12 It is still not known which country can lay claim to having had the most aristocratic travellers. Certainly, statistical methods13 have been utilised to examine the tours, but because of a fundamentally thin basis of material, they cannot assert representative character and are only able to indicate trends. Reliable serial sources have yet to be discovered because the usual sources – travelogues, correspondence, invoices, etc. – are typically of a “qualitative”, not “quantitative” nature. Furthermore, there is also no stable benchmark (for instance, the size of a peer group of male nobles) against which the absolute number of travellers might be measured.
The Secret of the Tour’s Success
Around 1550, the various forms of medieval travel – including expeditions to fight the heathens as well as pilgrimages and knightly tours14 – merged into the early modern Grand Tour. It is not clear why this remained the dominant form of aristocratic travel over the following two centuries. Although countless apodemics15 and travel reports were published during this period, there was no seminal text16 for travellers that would have lent legitimacy to this cultural practice. It is not even possible to find a theoretical foundation for this form of travel in humanistic literature. While Dutch research has singled out a letter from the humanist Justus Lipsius (1547–1606),17 the letter by itself hardly explains the popularity and longevity of the Grand Tour as a cultural practice. Nor is it possible to identify a specific, celebrated journey that might have been emulated by later generations. Famous and admired role models were not sought in one’s own time, but rather in antiquity and had names like Ulysses or Telemachus.18 Biblical connotations such as the notion that life was a journey to God also had resonance. While these references may seem far removed from us today, the main parallels were nonetheless the moral challenges presented by the foreign land and the opportunities for proving oneself when travelling.
Undoubtedly important motivations were the settling down of the courts and the desire of the nobility to become acquainted with them and succeed there. The systematic visits to courts19 which culminated in the conferment of knighthood was already institutionalised in the medieval knightly journey. Since the Middle Ages, the court had generally been a vital institution for educating the nobility.20 At that time, a young nobleman who wanted to engage in the culture and learning of his social class needed to visit the courts. Although he usually received no formal education there, he was able to acquire and refine the knowledge and skills appropriate for his class by imitating experienced knights and participating in courtly celebrations and ceremonies. The stay at court was deemed to be cultivating or civilising – an effect that since the Renaissance has also been ascribed to life in cities. In places like royal courts and cities where so many people of different social and geographical backgrounds came together, individuals had to exercise greater restraint, learn how to control their emotions and refine their manners and etiquette in order to please their fellow man.21 It was therefore especially important for young people of rank to break away from the rural-agrarian environment of their childhood to go to the city, if they did not want to miss out on making important connections to the respective territorial and national elites.
The skills that were acquired also included the septem probitates22 or the “seven knightly arts” (horse riding, swimming, archery, boxing, hunting, playing chess, and writing verse). Despite numerous modifications, these probitates remained the basis of aristocratic education even in the Early Modern period. The formal repertoire of medieval chivalry was still essential in the 18th century for shaping the world of the European nobility. Horses, coats of arms, armours, and swords claimed their rightful place in the centre of courtly and aristocratic self-representation. The opportunities to learn about and internalise them, however, multiplied and were institutionalised. Already in the Middle Ages, the possibility of serving as a squire or page existed alongside the court visit. There were only few positions available for court pages, though, and while obtaining one was a special honour, it also reinforced the respective position holder’s and his family’s dependence on the sovereign. Entering into service as a page also always meant putting oneself at the sovereign’s mercy.23 Pages were educated together with the princely offspring at the court school. Since the 16th century, however, special academiesreserved for the aristocracy were also established throughout Europe. Along with knightly exercises, scholarly disciplines were taught as well.24
This combination of chivalry and academic content was certainly nothing new, as the education of the aristocracy had oscillated between the poles of arma (arms) and litteris (scholarship) for centuries. What was new, nevertheless, was the degree of institutionalisation and scope. Educational facilities also emerged within the vicinity of princely schools and universities, and teachers settled there who could give instruction in chivalrous subjects. These developments were the by-product of a growing Early Modern princely state and its strong demand for courtly and administrative staff. While this demand around the year 1500 initially provided new opportunities for bourgeois jurists, aristocrats also hastened to acquire the necessary qualifications for serving the prince. In this way, aristocratic values also invaded the world of scholarly learning. The canon of physical activities, however, was hardly carved in stone. Instead, it was thoroughly adapted to the contemporary tastes of each particular era. Jeu de paume, a variant of tennis, hence enjoyed great popularity in aristocratic circles in the 17th century.
Generally speaking, however, the observation radius covered a wide range during a tour. Not only were famous monuments of all kinds visited, admired, described, and sometimes even represented pictorially, so were state and municipal institutions, art and natural history collections, military, industrial and scientific facilities, gardens, parks and the wonders of nature. Moreover, travellers met en route with important personalities, reigning monarchs, politically or socially influential people, famous scientists, and scholars, but also with their peers. The community of travellers was extremely close-knit, and often similarly aged noblemen from connected families were sent on their travels together, or they would join up with other young travellers to form tour groups. This led to the development of restricted communication communities where members monitored each other’s conformity to social norms and reported on one another to their families, yet where they also negotiated a basic consensus with respect to modes of action and the observation radius.
The secret of the tour’s success ultimately was due to the fact that there was plenty of leeway for adapting to familial or individual demands thanks to this low degree of specialisation. As a result, it was ultimately possible to pursue quite different educational objectives and to take into consideration the “professional” future of the traveller. For instance, sons who were slated for a military career could turn their attention to weaponry, fortifications, and entrenchments. It was not enough that they visited battlefields, but they also established contact with officers in order to obtain information on strategies and battle histories first hand, and they even occasionally joined the officer’s regiments for a limited time in order to inhale the air of combat. Such travellers appreciated engineering achievements, but further sought out the scenes of past armed conflicts in order to understand the strategic decisions of the warlords or to simply absorb the aura of the space of remembrance. It almost goes without saying that travel for such an educational purpose temporarily turned certain countries into must-see attractions, such as the Netherlands during the Eighty Years’ War.25
Other focal points underway were equally conceivable. Sons of Catholic families who were chosen to pursue a spiritual calling travelled, for example, to Rome, studied at the Collegium Germanicum, and sought close proximity to the Pope. In addition, the tours also gave them the opportunity to become qualified for secular careers if the plans their families harboured for them unexpectedly changed because of the sudden death of an older brother.26 For Protestant travellers, religion could also play an important role as an observation area. In the first half of the 18th century, for example, sons from pietistic noble families made trips to the Netherlands in order to become familiar with the diversity of religious groups and sects there before trying to come into contact with reformed Catholic movements in France, particularly the Jansenists. This enabled them to widen the otherwise highly restricted sphere of action of the small baronial or ducal courts from which they came.27
Opinions generally diverged with regard to the issue of religious denomination. In Britain, it was thought that there were Crypto-Catholic aspirations behind the aristocrats’ longing for Italy, which in some cases could not be denied. This made the travellers the target of intense satirical attacks, with one famous adage contending “Englese Italianato e un diabolo incarnato" ("An Englishman Italianate is a devil incarnate").28 For the most part, the issue was treated with much greater tact on the continent. Protestant travellers were advised to only associate with their religious brethren when travelling or to resort to their own private religious practices when this was not possible. After 1648, the rapidly built up network of diplomatic missions also offered the opportunity to attend private worship ceremonies in the homes of residents and delegates. From a confessional perspective, the tours were also a litmus test. The trip to Italy, for instance, was sometimes cancelled precisely for religious reasons. A less critical stance was taken toward France, not least because of the distance of the Gallican Church to Rome. Despite all the entreaties, journeys were also of course utilised as opportunities to convert to another faith – usually Catholicism – or to prepare the way for a later conversion.29
Travel undoubtedly also had enormous potential for those who were preparing for a career in princely administration. Travellers could not only continue to pursue their legal studies at leading European law schools, but also deepen their understanding of politics by participating in the conversations of foreign political circles. Important sites in this regard were once again the households of residents and delegates – social centres where foreigners came together with members of local upper classes in the context of so-called assemblées.30 This was a good way to gain experience, especially for aristocratic sons who wanted to pursue a diplomatic career. The young noblemen’s travelling also opened channels for many of the small courts in Germany that were unable to send diplomats to the large European courts for financial reasons. The larger European courts even used the tours as an opportunity to familiarise noble sons with – mostly, though, relatively insignificant – foreign-policy matters, which they then followed up on.31 Thus the foreign-policy activities of the young travelling noblemen ultimately ranged from mere observation to obtaining information and carrying out early diplomatic business. In this context, it is worth mentioning that Johann Daniel Schöpflin (1694-1771) first institutionalised training opportunities in the 18th century for future diplomats at the University of Strasbourg, which was frequented by travellers from all over Europe.32
The three thematic priorities of the tours highlighted here could easily be supplemented by a number of others. Further mention, however, will only be made of the search for scholarly knowledge and classical education. It goes without saying that travel was especially appealing to scholars: It offered the opportunity to visit the spaces of remembrance of their disciplines, to find intellectual inspiration, and to establish a cross-regional, possibly even international, network which, subsequently maintained through correspondence, could lead to new publication and career opportunities.33 In the 17th and 18th century, advanced students and university professors in particular embarked on many trips that resembled those of the nobility in more ways than one. At the same time, aristocrats themselves were also keen to participate in scholarly networks and to at least acquire enough knowledge for keeping up with the conversations of the educated classes or even occasionally influencing them.34 The nobility’s hunger for (classical) education was rooted in the competition for representation at the courts, and, assuming sufficient funds were available, culminated in the traveller’s own collecting activity.
Transfer of People, Things, and Concepts
This brings us to the question of the transfer processes, exchange or the circulation of people, things, and concepts, and the role that was played by the tours. For the moment, the focus will remain on people. In this regard, the scope and limits of the transfers in the social practice of travelling are already understood. Travel involves a departure to a foreign place, but also a return to the starting point. Thus the absence associated with the tours was always only temporary. In contrast to the modern holiday, however, early modern travel for the acquisition of knowledge and education required an extended period of time. It was not unusual for travellers to go away for several months or even years. In exceptional cases, travellers became migrants who remained abroad.35 This was very rare, at any rate, in the case of young noblemen, whereas it was slightly more common for their private tutors or teachers. Well-known examples include Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) and Johann Friedrich Reiffenstein (1719–1793), who both settled in Rome as antiquarians.
Travel was expected to have a life-changing effect. The young noblemen were supposed to acquire sophistication while they were away and to internalise the norms of conduct of their class. The nobleman’s journey should accordingly be recognised as a part of aristocratic socialisation. This was closely linked to the reception of Baldassare Castiglione’s (1478-1529) Cortegiano36 and Nicolas Faret’s (ca. 1596-1646) L’honneste homme,37 which became important class-appropriate role models in Romance-language cultures. In the century of the Enlightenment, this particular purpose of travel increasingly receded into the background. Instead, each trip was supposed to be subordinated to a “principal aim” – promoting the welfare of one’s fellow citizens – and dispensed with the cultivation of class distinctions.38 On the other hand, the tendency to re-conceptualise travel as an opportunity to find escape in non-utilitarian aesthetic experience may also be observed. Beyond the Enlightenment’s instrumentalisation of travel, the "Selbstbildung des adligen Individuums" (“self-education of the noble individual”) was also often a central concern of the tours, at least from the second half of the 18th century.39
It is more difficult, however, to determine what transfer processes were triggered by the travellers in the countries, cities, and towns they visited. To my knowledge, studies in this area are lacking. As for the majority of travellers, they did not reside at their destinations long enough to leave behind a significant trace. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the sheer number of travellers that visited certain locations year in and year out in order to stay for varying lengths of time left some kind of mark on these places, at the very least by giving rise to new infrastructure – from the hostel and transport services and special tutors and guides, the infamous Ciceroni, to court and administrative officials who were also charged with attending to foreign travellers. Under Louis XIV (1638–1715) at Versailles, for instance, there were two Introducteurs des Ambassadeurs et Princes Etrangers who were responsible for the integration of delegates and noble travellers (not just princes) into the court ceremonial. In Rome, the cardinal protectors, who represented the interests of the nationes at the Curia, also received and took care of travellers from their countries. The influence of tourism, especially in the 18th century, should not be underestimated for the stimulating effect it had on the art market of the Eternal City.40 An artist like Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787) owed his rise to fame in Europe less to local patronage than to his reputation in the European travelling community. The Venetian art market was similarly revitalised by travellers. The Venetian painter Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697–1768), known as Canaletto, even went to London in 1746 because British travellers, his most important customers, avoided Italy after the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession.41 Travel thus helped to bring about a diversified art market.
Wherever people travel, they usually bring objects with them. It is thus not surprising that the cavalier’s tour, educational tour, and Grand Tour also led to a transfer of things. The directions of these transfers were determined by the laws of an increasingly monetised society. The travellers rarely carried presents for their hosts or other items from their own country to then effectively pass them on to the foreign country. Although early modern society was certainly strongly influenced by personal and familial constellations, the majority of travellers on their tours exceeded the boundaries of the networks in which they were embedded. The rules of do ut des – of giving and receiving – did not initially apply to them at their destinations. The only courtesies that were expected of them were payments for expenses and gratuities. The picture changes, however, when one asks what the travellers took home with them. The range of goods that could be purchased in a foreign country was indeed extensive. For example, books that were perhaps difficult to obtain at home were typically acquired for study purposes. Sometimes young noblemen’s journeys were even used specifically to supplement the family library,42 as lists were sent and the travellers effectively served as book procurers. In addition, travellers brought home the latest Spanish or French fashions that they could still wear at least for a while to signify their worldly sophistication. Even foils needed for fencing lessons were bought abroad and later brought home. Finally, representational objects of all kinds were acquired abroad, with the portrait playing a prominent role in the 18th century. If they could somehow afford it, British travellers above all had portraits commissioned, preferably in Rome or Venice. Building on existing models, the painter Pompeo Batoni developed an influential pictorial formula for the representative images of travellers (which still is prevalent today in the composition of vacation photos). The traveller posed against a background dominated by famous points of interest or a collection of famous ruins from antiquity, which he would designate with an elegant and casual pointing gesture. British research has termed this the “swagger formula”.43 The foreign country was thus reduced to a trophy-like piece of scenery – to a cabinet of curiosities that the traveller, as an amateur antiquarian, had at his disposal. As for the transfer of the things, the balance remained quite one-sided, since the travellers were more exporters than importers.
It is perhaps most difficult to make any determinations regarding the reception of concepts and ideas. In a very general way, one may refer to the visits to universities and special academies for training noblemen (see above). Travellers treated the study of “gallantry” with absolute seriousness. Detailed schedules regulated the travellers’ daily routine at their study locations, making sure that they regularly attended the classes with the selected teachers and professors and that they actually learned the material that was imparted to them. In light of the book and reading lists of the noble travellers, it may be surmised that they were exposed during their tours to the important political-theory writings of their time.44 While travel was certainly not an ideal solution for finding access to such works, travel and study abroad nonetheless undoubtedly contributed to their dissemination. Just how the concepts and ideas mediated in this way were received by the young noblemen is generally hard to know. For the most part, we are only able to determine what teachers or readings were chosen, without, however, any insight into the intellectual response.
The most important medium of transfer of concepts and ideas was probably the travellers’ testimonies, which were equally a means of self-expression. To be sure, travelogues should neither be over- nor underestimated as transmitters of experience. Especially in the 17th century, such reports were itineraries that mentioned each leg of the trip, provided a list of what had been seen and offered concise assessments. Even if they usually offered little that was new in comparison to contemporary travel guidebooks, every now and then personal moments were related of encounters in the foreign country with locals or episodes off the beaten path that showed what may have delighted, impressed, or moved the travellers. With the spread of enlightened ideas, the travelogue became more and more a literary means of promoting the common good. Remarks were increasingly comprehensive, encyclopaedic, but also reflective and ideological, and were sometimes more concerned about practical matters. They served their purpose by being passed around and read in the domestic (noble) society. The audience of such reports was thus larger than that of the nuclear family, as it also comprised the wider circle of relatives and close acquaintances.
The most concrete transfer processes undoubtedly occurred in the fine arts, which were used for purposes of courtly and aristocratic self-representation. Nonetheless, in this context the cavalier’s tour, educational tour, and Grand Tour are to be understood less as transfer media than as distribution channels that helped to universalise enthusiasm for certain subjects. Only rarely did a tour result in a particular artist or architect being commissioned by the traveller or his family. Still, the basic tastes that one acquired while travelling persisted. One obvious example in this context is the enthusiasm of the European upper classes for Italy. In the Baroque and Rococo periods, motifs that drew on the cultural landscape of the Apennine Peninsula figured prominently in the furnishings and appointments of northern alpine castles and gardens. In the UK, numerous builders adopted above all the design of Andrea Palladio’s (1508–1580) buildings in Veneto, and neo-Palladianism became the preferred style among the supporters of the politically dominant Whig Party. Yet the Bohemian nobility also oriented themselves towards Italian models in constructing their summer residences. After his cavalier’s tour in the years 1663/1664, Count Wenceslas Adalbert of Sternberg (d. 1708) likewise built Troja Palace near Prague, which was modelled on Rome’s villa suburbana. In the 18th century, Mount Vesuvius and the natural landscape and antiquities of the Phlegraean Fields also enjoyed great popularity. Vesuvius not only became a popular pictorial motif, but it was also recreated en miniature in gardens, as for example in Wörlitz. Also the supposed tomb of Virgil (70 per BC–19 v. BC) near Naples found favour in gardens north of the Alps and was recreated as a burial place or decorative accessory.45 It was soon no longer important whether or not the builder had actually been to Italy. Romanitas became an integral part of the culture of the European upper classes, and here, too, the cavalier’s tour, educational tour, and Grand Tour made a significant contribution.
The limits of the cavalier’s tour as a distribution channel should thus be pointed out in this context. Overcoming them required illustrious “border crossers” who stayed abroad for an extended period of time. Figures such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann in Rome, Francesco Algarotti (1712–1764) at the court of King Frederick II of Prussia (1712–1786), Consul Joseph Smith (1674–1770) in Venice or Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803) were successful middlemen between foreign travellers and local society. They therefore filled a gap that the cavalier’s tour, the educational tour, and the Grand Tour usually could not fill by facilitating connections between courts or organising the transfer of goods and concepts in a more socially consequential way. The tours were primarily only relevant to the individual traveller and his immediate sphere, while they certainly had a potentially lasting influence as a cultural practice on the taste of the upper classes of society.