The Third Earl inherited the title and estates at the age of eleven after the death of his father, and by the age of 20 was a well established Whig aristocrat from the north of England.
He developed an interest in architecture and took a Grand Tour in 1719 to study the works of Palladio, armed with the reference books of Inigo Jones which he used for reference and note taking. Burlington was well-travelled. In all he took three Grand Tours between 1714-19 and other trips to Paris.
By the mid 1720′s he had a new protegé in William Kent (1685-1748), a fellow Yorkshireman who he had met in Italy in 1719. Kent, initially a painter, lived at Burlington House. Kent was also asked to edit Burlington’s pet project, the publication of The Designs of Inigo Jones.
Burlington, an architect in his own right and often referred to as ‘the architect Earl‘, and ‘The Apollo of the Arts‘, for he was also a lover of music. He had Georg Frederic Handel dedicate two works to him whilst staying at Burlington House, and In 1719, was one of main subscribers in the Royal Academy of Music, which produced baroque opera for stage.
He was designer of some of the earliest and most important Palladian buildings including a Villa at Tottenham Park, Wiltshire (1721), a House for General Wade in Great Burlington Street, London (1723) and the New Assembly rooms in York (1731-2), and the Dormitory at Westminster School, London (1722 – 1730), the first public work by Burlington, for which Sir Christopher Wren had provided a design, which was rejected in favor of Burlington’s, a sign of changing English taste.
He also built another home of his own, Chiswick House, Middlesex. His architectural drawings, inherited by his son-in-law the Duke of Devonshire are preserved at Chatsworth, and enable attributions that would not otherwise be possible.
After the Assembly Rooms in York he designed few other buildings, and by 1740 was a semi-recluse living between Chiswick and Yorkshire. The Palladian Style he was ‘godfather’ of was however to flourish for many decades to come.
In 1734, a group of young British gentlemen, all alumni of the Grand Tour in Italy, formed a dining club in London. Calling themselves the Society of Dilettanti (from the Italian dilettare, to take delight), this close-knit association transformed classical antiquity from a private pleasure to a public benefit by sponsoring archaeological expeditions, forming collections, and publishing influential books on ancient architecture and sculpture.
Generous sponsors of expeditions to Greece, the Ionian coast of Asia Minor, and the Middle East—regions then still largely unknown to Continental travelers—the Society published lavish folios that set unprecedented standards for objective archaeological research. In 1762, the Society underwrote the three-year sojourn of painter James “Athenian” Stuart (1713–88) and architect Nicholas Revett (1720–1804) in Athens, where they measured, excavated, and drew the city’s classical monuments. Stuart and Revett’s findings were presented in The Antiquities of Athens, an imposing three-volume publication that inspired Greek Revival architects and designers for the next century. Important books underwritten by the membership also circulated the observations of teams sent out to map ancient lands and explore ruins in Ionia, Baalbek, Palmyra, and Attica.
Membership in the Society was far from all scholarly fieldwork. Meeting in taverns to discuss “those objects which had contributed to their entertainment abroad,” they elevated “convivial intercourse” to a high art. Echoing the Roman poets Virgil and Horace, their drinking toasts and mottoes signaled the Society’s priorities: “Seria Ludo” (serious matters in a playful spirit), “Res est Severa Voluptas” (pleasure is a serious business), and “Viva la Virtù” (long live the fine arts). As the English novelist Horace Walpole (1717-1797) waspishly observed, “The nominal qualification [for membership] is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk.”
Ribald and profane, the Society nurtured a lively curiosity for ancient erotica, piqued by the sensational finds of sexually explicit art in Herculaneum and Pompeii. They made a subversive contribution to the interpretation of ancient mythology and religion with A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus, which drew from reports of a phallic cult in southern Italy. Designed both to inform and to titillate, this daring treatise argued that all art is rooted in religion, and all religion in sexuality. This scandalized critics who called “obscene” artifacts, the items installed in the “museo segreto,” or a cabinet of erotic curiosities.
Taking inspiration from such groups as the libertine Hell Fire Clubs, the esoteric Freemasons, and the Arcadian Academy in Rome, the Dilettanti carried out traditional rituals in rooms hung with witty portraits by George Knapton and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The president draped himself in a scarlet toga and sat in a mahogany armchair called the “sella curulis,” after the official chair occupied by Roman consuls. Other officers included an “arch master” and an “imp” who sported a tail. Suitably decorated with sensual and suggestive imagery, a mahogany “Tomb of Bacchus” and balloting box were used to conduct business and to collect fines as “face money” for failure to present a portrait. During the Society’s early years, the most colorful members were Sir Francis Dashwood (1701–1781) 11th Baron le Despencer, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer (1762–1763) and the founder of the notorious Hell Fire Club; and Charles Sackville (1711–1769), 2nd Duke of Dorset, an impresario of Italian opera in London.
The Dilettanti’s reputation for revelry and riot was tempered by their stature as “arbiters of fashionable virtù.” The last of their monumental publishing enterprises, Specimens of Antient Sculpture, features collections of Greek and Roman art created by such prominent members as author Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824), Charles Townley (1737-1805), and Thomas Hope (1769-1831).
Celebrated connoisseurs, Dilettanti members established and enlarged some of the finest antiquities galleries in England, including the collections at Castle Howard, Shugborough, Towneley Hall, Lansdowne House, Woburn Abbey, and Rokeby Hall.
Members of the Dilettanti emerged on the wrong side of history in the aesthetic disputes over the controversial 1816 acquisition of Lord Elgin’s Parthenon sculptures by the British Museum, and as a result the Society’s prestige suffered a serious blow. The Dilettanti nevertheless revolutionized the study of classical architecture and sculpture, eastern Mediterranean topography, and ancient religion, setting the stage for the great archaeological endeavors of the 19th century.
With 60 members, today’s Society of Dilettanti still counts among its ranks distinguished figures from the world of the arts and culture including collectors, museum directors, art historians, authors, and aristocrats who have inherited great collections of paintings and sculpture. The Society meets five times a year at Brooks’ Club in London for dinners which are celebrated with traditional rituals, regalia, and toasts dating back to the eighteenth century. Vacancies in this “men only” group arise on death or retirement and are filled through an election in which each member can propose or second a candidate.
Current members include artist David Hockney, continuing a tradition of distinguished artist-members which began with George Knapton and includes Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir Martin Archer Shee, Lord Leighton, and John Singer Sargent. With the aim of reviving its original mission to support projects connected with archaeology and the arts, the Society established a charitable trust in 1977 and makes grants to cultural institutions, research centers, and young scholars of classical art and architecture.
In 2008 the J.Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa presented “Grecian Taste and Roman Spirit: The Society of Dilettanti” showing the Society of Dilettanti as connoisseurs—of statues, sexuality, and the science of antiquity. Drawn primarily from the collections of the Getty Research Institute and the Society of Dilettanti in London, over 100 objects were on view, including oil portraits, sculptures, drawings, caricatures, artifacts, and rare books that tell the story of the Society, whose cultural ambitions flourished in an atmosphere of Dionysian revels and aesthetic refinement.
The exhibition’s companion publication, Dilettanti: The Antic and the Antique in Eighteenth-Century England was written by Bruce Redford, co-curator of the exhibition and professor of Art History and English at Boston University.
Talking about the exhibition Richard Dorment, a current member of the society, said, “If you’ve never heard of the Society of Dilettanti, you may well be familiar with the famous pair of group portraits painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds between 1777-79.” The first shows the collector Sir William Hamilton surrounded by seven of his fellow Dilettanti, pointing to an engraving of a Greek vase from his collection in the volume that lies open on the table in the foreground. In the second picture, seven more members of the society have gathered together to examine a collection of antique gems.
He points out that, “not everyone in the pictures is giving these scholarly pursuits their fullest attention. In both paintings, wine is flowing, glasses are being clinked, and toasts are being proposed. After a while, the unworthy thought creeps into your head that perhaps these fellows aren’t as high-minded as you’d assumed”.
In the first picture (above), most of the Dilettanti are paying only polite attention to Sir William’s scholarly publication. Though the collector isn’t aware of it, his colleagues are actually raising their glasses to a lady’s garter that has been produced for general inspection by the fellow standing at the left.
In the second picture, a young man holds a gem up to the light and in doing so makes a circle with his thumb and forefinger that his fellow Dilettanti would have recognised at once as a rude gesture signifying the female sex. Though the study of ancient gems seems like an innocent enough activity, among those that we know circulated among the Dilettanti was at least one cameo carved with a Dionysian orgy “not fit for a lady”.
Dorment says, “Reynolds brilliantly captures both the serious and the frivolous sides of the Society of Dilettanti. At a time when royal and government patronage of the arts hardly existed, its members supported important expeditions to Greece and Iona, which resulted in publications that laid the groundwork for the development of archaeology as a serious scholarly discipline”.
But, he also recognises that “members took the enjoyment of life – in the form of wine, women, friendship and jokes – as seriously as they did their fascination with the ancient world”. Reynolds was in a position to appreciate the ethos of the society because he was a member.
The first artist associated with the society was George Knapton, who in the 1740s painted 23 portraits of its members, some of them got up in Van Dyck costume, others masquerading as Venetian noblemen, or dressed as Turks. One, Lord Moyra, points to a bronze copy of the Callipygian Venus, known in the 18th century as “Venus of the beautiful buttocks” (which is what callypygian means).As with Reynolds’s portraits, the sitters knew that these pictures would mainly be seen by fellow members of the society and so hammed it up and fooled around, which they were unlikely to have done had the pictures been intended for display at home.
Dorment rightly concludes that, “For all the jokes, the society’s patronage could hardly have been more enlightened. At a time when the distinction between Roman and Greek art was just beginning to be understood, the expeditions to Greece and Turkey they sponsored were a turning point in research into the classical world, introducing new standards of scrupulous measurement and careful delineation to the study of Greek architecture and sculpture”.
Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) established the famous pottery that is his namesake in 1759. He is credited with the industrialising the manufacture of pottery, and instigating many industry innovations. He was also a shrewd businessman who recognised the growing demand for luxury goods that came with the new wealth that came with industrialisation, and was able to identify specific opportunities such as those associated with the great interest in archeology and the collecting or antiquities from the ancient world, much fueled by the European Grand tours by the British gentry.
He was able to satisfy the great demand for replicas of these artifacts. The main themes on the company’s jasperware have all been taken from ancient mythologies: Roman, Greek or Egyptian. An example of this was Wedgwood’s obsession with the idea of duplicating the Portland Vase, a blue and white glass vase dating to the first century BC. For three years he worked on the project, eventually producing what he considered a satisfactory copy in 1789.
The Portland Vase is also an iconic object the acquisition of antiquities fueled by the Grand Tour. The Roman cameo glass vase, currently dated to between 5 and 25 CE is about 25 centimeters high and 56 in circumference. It is made of violet-blue glass, and surrounded with a single continuous white glass cameo.Legend has it that it was discovered by Fabrizio Lazzaro in the sepulchre of the Emperor Alexander Severus, at Monte del Grano near Rome, and excavated some time around 1582. It ended up in the Barberini family collection (which also included sculptures such as the Barberini Faun and Barberini Apollo) being one of the treasures of Maffeo Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644).
Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador in Naples, purchased it in 1778 from James Byres, a Scottish art dealer who had acquired it after it was sold by Donna Cornelia Barberini-Colonna, Princess of Palestrina. She had inherited the vase from the Barberini family. Hamilton, with the assistance of his niece, Mary, arranged a private sale to Margaret Cavendish-Harley, widow of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland, so dowager Duchess of Portland. She passed it to her son William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland in 1786.
The 3rd Duke lent the original vase to Josiah Wedgwood to be copied, and then to the British Museum, at which point it it became known as the “Portland Vase”. It was deposited there permanently by the fourth Duke in 1810, after a friend of his broke its base. It has remained in the British Museum ever since, apart from three years (1929-32) when William Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland put it up for sale at Christie’s. It failed to reach its reserve and was subsequently purchased by the British Museum from William Cavendish-Bentinck, 7th Duke of Portland in 1945 with the aid of a bequest from James Rose Vallentin.
Today the original Portland Vase can still be seen in the British Museum, and is included as a stop on the London Grand Tour. Follow the link for tour reservations.
Burlington House located in Piccadilly is home to the Royal Academy of Arts and a number of Societies known as the Courtyard Societies. In relation to the London Grand Tour it is the history of the buildings that is of greater importance.
The original house was one of a number of very large private residences built on the north side of Piccadilly from the 1660s. Originally a red-brick mansion by Sir John Denham, it was sold unfinished in 1667 to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington, after whom it is named.
In 1704 the house passed to the ten-year old Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, later known as “the architect earl” and “Apollo of the Arts”, he was to be the principal patron of the Palladian movement in Britain after three European Grand Tours 1714 – 1719, and a further trip to Paris in 1726. On his 1719 tour he carried his copy of Andrea Palladio’s book I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura with him as a reference and note-book.
Palladio and his books had been discovered a century earlier by the architect Inigo Jones, the first Grand Tourist, whose work the Earl would have known well; the Queens House in Greenwich (1719), the Banqueting House in Whitehall (1722) and Covent Carden (1730).
Jones had not executed many of his ideas and the Palladian style had not become a fashion until the Earl instigated the Georgian Palladian Revival when he retained Colen Campbell as architect for work on his own home, Burlington House. Campbell’s appointment in 1717/18, was a key moment in the history of English architecture. His work, in strict Palladian style, and the aesthetic preferences of Campbell, Burlington and their close associate William Kent, who also worked on Burlington House, turned the Palladian style into a dominant one for decades, and its influence can still be seen today.
On Lord Burlington’s death in 1753, Burlington House passed to the Dukes of Devonshire, but they had no need of it as they already owned Devonshire House just along Piccadilly. The 4th Duke’s younger son Lord George Cavendish and a Devonshire in-law, the 3rd Duke of Portland (namesake of the Portland Vase), each used the house for at least two separate spells. It then had a number of owners before being sold to the British government in 1854 for £140,000. In 1867 The Royal Academy of Art took over the main block on a 999 year lease with rent of £1 per year.
Burlington House will be visited on the London Grand Tour. Follow the link for tour reservations
The Banqueting House is the only remaining complete building of Whitehall Palace and remains one of London’s most important banqueting venues. It plays host to many royal and society events.
Whitehall Palace was the principal royal residence between 1530 and 1698, and the Banqueting House dates from 1622. It was designed and built by Inigo Jones for James I (1603-25) to host occasions of state, plays and masques. At the time of its building it was one of the first classical buildings in Britain, surrounded by red-brick Tudor buildings.
The site upon which the Banqueting House was built had stood York Place, the London residence of the Archbishops of York since the 14th century. It’s proximity to the king’s residence was a sign of the importance of the archbishopric of York, the most important in the Church.
In 1514 Thomas Wolsey (c.1475-1530) was made Archbishop of York and had an unparralleled position of trust with King Henry VIII (1509-47). York Place became a favourite place for the king to visit. The King was later to own it, when he his relationship with Wolsey failed and Henry stripped him of all his properties in the South of England. It was renamed Whitehall and became a residence of the King.
By the time of Henry’s death the palace was the largest in Europe, but it was far more than just a residence. Within the grounds temporary structures were also built for special occasions. The largest of these was a banqueting house built by Queen Elizabeth I (1553-1603) to host entertainments associated with her marriage negotiations. This building occupied the site of the current banqueting house.
The initial structure of timber and canvas stood for 25 years before being replaced by a brick structure which was completed in 1609 for james I. It was built for the performance of elaborate masque performances; a cross between a ball, an amateur theatrical, a play and a fancy dress party, designed to communicate messages of royal authority.
Inigo Jones was a set designer and scene painter of such masques, and later became an architect after his Grand Tours of Europe. He worked closely with his partner and playwright Ben Jonson who had also spent time abroad. Jones’s travels inspired the classical sets he designed for the Masques, the finest example being of the masque Coelum Britannicum, performed on Shrove Tuesday 1634.
By this time a third structure stood on the site, the current Banqueting House, which has been designed and built by Jones in 1622 after the previous structure had been destroyed by fire in 1619. His design was based on an ancient form of building that most closely resembled the usage of the banqueting house, a basilica (an ancient Roman meeting hall). The Roman architect Vitruvius stipulated that a basilica should be twice as long as it is wide, which the banqueting House is. The structure was also raised on a vaulted basement.
The work began in 1619 and was completed in 1622 at a cost of £15,618 14s. By 1635 its use as a venue for masques ended due to concern about the damage smoke may do to the ceiling painting by Rubens. The painting meant the building could not be used for its original purpose. But from this point on it was a venue for important receptions.
The Banqueting House was also the venue of a more dark and sinister event in 1649. After years of struggle between the authority of Parliament and the power of the King there was a Civil War (1642-9), during which Charles I was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. His execution took place on a scaffold erected in front of the banqueting House.
For some time after the execution the banqueting House was not in use. But, in 1654 it became the Lord Protector’ hall of audience. In that year Oliver Cromwell had become Head of State as Lord Protector. After Cromwell’s death in Whitehall (1658), the house was again unused until 1660 when the monarchy was restored. It was then restored for use as a ceremonial court chamber and reception venue.
One of the ceremonies carried out here was the distribution of bread, fish, wine, cloth and money on Maundy Thursday. It also included a traditional washing of the feet of the poor by the sovereign. The tradition of distributing Maundy money continues, taking place at a number of cathedral venues.
A highlight of the building is the ceiling painting by Paul Rubens. It was commissioned by Charles I (1625-49), to celebrate the life and wise government of his farther James I. They were installed in March 1636 after being shipped from Antwerp where Rubens had painted them in his studio. Some sketches of the scenes that date from his visit to London (1629-30) are now in the National Gallery.
Banquesting House is visited on the London Grand Tour. Follow the link to make a tour reservation
Covent Garden is a district of London, located on the eastern fringe of the West End. It is mainly associated with the former fruit and vegetable market located in the central square which is now a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House, which is also known as “Covent Garden”.
In the 16th century, it was an Anglo-Saxon trading town of Lundenwic for a brief time, before becoming “the garden of the Abbey and Convent”, associated with Westminster Abbey. In 1540 Henry VIII took the land belonging to the Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, including, what was by then named “the Covent Garden”. Henry’s son then granted to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford in 1552.
It was the The 4th Earl, Francis Russell (1593-1641), who commissioned Inigo Jones to develop the area. The commission had been prompted by Charles I who took offence at the condition of the road and houses along Long Acre. Work began in 1631 with the building of the church of St Paul’s, the first protestant church in England after the restoration.It was completed in 1633 at a cost of £4000, and consecrated in 1638.
The houses and piazza were completed in 1637. The design of the square was new to London, and had a significant influence on modern town planning in London. I was became a prototype that was much repeated. as the city grew.
The fruit and vegetable market began as a small open air market on the south side of the fashionable square around 1654. In time, Coven Garden became and area of disrepute with taverns, theatres, coffee-houses and prostitutes. The gentry started to leave and a more bohemian population moved in. By the 18th century Covent Garden had become a well-known red-light district, attracting notable prostitutes, and Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, a guidebook to the prostitutes and whorehouses, became a bestseller.
An Act of Parliament was drawn up to control the area, and Charles Fowler’s neo-classical building of 1830 was designed to cover and organise the market. other buildings were added later: the Floral Hall, Charter Market, and in 1904, the Jubilee Market.
By the 1960s, traffic congestion was causing problems, and in 1974 the market relocated to the New Covent Garden Market at Nine Elms, in a suburb of London. The central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980, and is now a popular tourist location containing cafes, pubs, small shops, and a craft market called the Apple Market; along with another market held in the Jubilee Hall.
Covent Garden and the St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden are visited on the London Grand Tour. Follow the link to make a tour reservation
Palladian is the name given to style of architecture after the Venetian architect Andrea di Pietro della Gondola (1508-1580), more commonly known as Palladio, and derives from Palladio’s studies of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (born c. 80–70 BC, died after c. 15 BC).
Palladio was a great fascination for the Original grand tourist Inigo Jones who brought the style to the Britain. Although few if Jones’s own designs were ever built: the Banqueting House (1622), Covent Garden (1630) and the Queens House Greenwich (1717). Whilst magnificent works, they did not create a fashion for the Palladian style, that was to come a century later.
The Georgian Palladian revival was instigated by Lord Burlington (1694-1753) and Colen Campbell (1676-1729). It then became the dominant British style for over two centuries; a feature of every high street, and the favoured style for many banks, public buildings and country houses. It was also adopted in the creation of spectacular city planning projects in Bath and Edinburgh.
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, also known as ‘the Apollo of the Arts’ and ‘ the architect earl’, took three Grand Tours in Europe between 1714 – 1719 and a further trip to Paris in 1726. They gave him opportunities to develop his ‘taste’. His professional skill as an architect was unusual for an English aristocrat. He carried his copy of Andrea Palladio’s book I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura with him when touring in 1719, and made many notes and regords in it.
Burlington relied on Palladio, and Palladio’s pupil, Scamozzi as his interpreters of the classic tradition. He was also inspired by Palladio’s own drawings belonging to Inigo Jones, and to Jones’ pupil John Webb.
Burlington’s first project was his own London residence, Burlington House, now the Royal Academy of Art in Piccadilly, where he employed the Scottish architect Colen Campbell and William Kent for the interiors. Burlington House was the first major statement of Georgian Palladianism to be executed in Britain.
Colen Campbell had travelled in Italy from 1695-1702 and later published, Vitruvius Britannicus (the British Architect), in three volumes between 1715 and 1725; a catalogue of design, containing engravings of English buildings by Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren, as well as Campbell himself and other prominent architects of the period.
Their success made the neo-Palladian Architecture popular in Great Britain and America during the 18th century. For example, an illustration of Somerset House was an inspiration for the American architect Peter Harrison when he designed the Brick Market in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1761.
By the early 1730s Palladian style was firmly established. Having been adopted by the Italian gentry as town and country villas. The concepts were adaptable and scalable making them appropriate for many private and public uses in Britain.