Display | Drawn to Sicily: Early British Exploration

Posted in exhibitions by InternRW on July 12, 2016


Charles Gore, View of the Temple of Concord at Agrigento, 1777, watercolour over graphite, with some pen and ink
(London: The British Museum)

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Closing this week at The British Museum:

Drawn to Sicily: Early British Exploration of the Classical World
The British Museum, London, Late April — 14 July 2016

In the 18th century, Sicily was a Grand Tour destination only for the intrepid few, an optional extension to the more conventional tour that focused on Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. Travel on the rural, rugged island was challenging and many parts were inaccessible. Furthermore, the countryside could be dangerous, as groups of bandits preyed on travelers. Yet those with a specific interest in ancient art and architecture went to admire and study first-hand the remains of the majestic Greek temples.

The presence of European diplomats at the court of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Naples made access to, and travel in, Sicily somewhat easier. Diplomats could provide travel passes—such as one which was issued to Charles Townley (1737–1805) and displayed in this show—as well as letters of introduction to the cultured élite in the main cities: Palermo, Catania, and Syracuse. A travel pass could ensure lodging when presented, as English visitors were well-respected. This display illustrates four expeditions undertaken by some of Britain’s best-known Grand Tourists and renowned architects.