The Grand Tour – Then and Now

Carved shell cameo brooch

Tourism really hasn’t changed very much over the last 300 years. Traveling for pleasure, knowledge, and acquisition had its beginnings in the 17th century. Those travelers on the classic “Grand Tour” and modern-day tourists have much in common – a willingness to be inspired and enlightened by the art, beauty, and culture embodied in the famous cities of Europe, and eventually as travel methods improved, around the world.

The emphasis in education, particularly for young people of wealth and privilege, was steeped in Classical literature, art and architecture. At first Italy and France were the goal. The desire to see firsthand all they had studied gave rise to what we today call the “gap year – two or even three years then – and the tradition known as the Grand Tour came to be.

Antique print of Pompei theater, southern Italy. Original, created by Wolfensberger and Radcliffe, was published in Florence, Italy, 1842, Luigi Bardi ed.

It soon became the fashionable thing to do before settling down to fulfill the familial duties waiting for them at home. Enduring the extreme rigors, the weeks and sometimes months it took to get somewhere, and the perilous dangers of travel in those days was part of the adventure. In the days before photography, it formed the basis for the sketches, letters, diaries and eventually books they wrote about their experiences as well as the lessons they learned on their journeys. They collected art, sculpture, literature, and decorative objets d’art and shipped it all home to fill their country estates and London townhouses.

What to do and where to stay, what and where to eat; the best routes for traveling, the best merchants from whom to buy, the best artist studios; the best entertainment, and the visual wonders, natural and man-made were all experiences communicated to family, friends, and future travelers. Sound familiar? Now we have up-to-date guidebooks, Instagram and the Internet to communicate our favorite images, ideas, and experiences.

In the words of Matt Gross, of the Frugal Traveler, a New York Times Blog:  “Even though the basic contours of the Grand Tour were established in the 17th century – as a kind of finishing school for affluent young gents – it has mutated to meet the shifting demands of generations of travelers.”

Now bargain fares and “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” type tours are available to everyone, not just the privileged few. Colleges have instituted semesters abroad where students study and immerse themselves in the arts and culture of the country under the auspices of the university.

Eiffel tower souvenir

All travelers, and especially those who have traveled the world, enjoy collecting objects that reflect the countries they have visited. Many of them find themselves in a similar situation as this woman.  She has traveled all seven continents and has filled her home with dozens of artworks and objects displaying her interests. When asked if she had cataloged her possessions, she replied: “Oh. No, I haven’t ever thought about it as they are really only of value to me.” She was advised when the time came, her family and heirs were going to be left with the very stressful task of figuring it all out.

An excellent source for organization to aid future heirs as well as estate and insurance appraisers is On the Record – Creating a Road Map for Your Family. Amy Praskac, owner of On the Record has compiled a comprehensive website on all aspects of record keeping. She also has a blog filled with valuable information and ideas on how to gather and store records for safekeeping.

This summer, an event of note allows “travelers” to embark on a “grand tour” of Europe without getting on an airplane. A major festival of the arts going on in Southern California (July 7- August 31) is the 2017 Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. The theme this year is aptly titled “The Grand Tour”.

 According to the website: “A pageant ticket becomes your passport on the Grand Tour to experience spectacle, music, stories and grand illusions as masterpieces come to life. …a breathtaking theatrical journey through the centuries in search of unforgettable art.”

For some first-hand observations about the Grand Tour, there are several very enjoyable books by such famous authors as Mark Twain, Henry James, Edward Gibbon, and Francis Bacon, whose advice to travelers in 1625 is still relevant today. And of course, lots of fun movies to watch.

19th century table inlaid with porcelain plaques.

As an appraiser, I have had the opportunity to examine several 19th century souvenirs of The Grand Tour including sets of plaster medallions with Classical scenes, prints depicting ancient ruins, carved cameo shells and micro mosaics.  I’ve even seen tables inlaid with stone, mosaics and porcelain plaques.

 Sources

Grand Tours and Cook’s Tours: A History of Leisure Travel, 1750-1915. Lynne Withey.  William Morrow, 1997.

 Italy and the Grand Tour. Jeremy Black. Yale University Press, 2003.

 Ladies of the Grand Tour. Brian Dolan. Flamingo, New Ed Edition, 2002.

 The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century. Jeremy Black. Sutton Publishing, 2003.

 Websites

 The Grand Tour of Europe in the 17th and 18th Century   thoughtco.com

 9 Books and Films Inspired by the Grand Tour. Google Arts and Culture. 

 Frugal Traveler – A New York Times Blog

 On the Record – Creating a Road Map for Your Family.  

Art Deco 1925-1940 …. Looking to the Future.

Radio with art deco streamlined styling.

The predominant motif in Art Deco design was the appearance of “Speed”. Streamlined sweeping curves based on aerodynamic principles – a symbol of forward movement.

The pessimism – some critics considered it decadence – that pervaded society at the end of the 19th century was replaced with a sense of optimism and excitement. People looked ahead to the new century witnessing the industrial progress that was giving them hope for an economic and social revival.

The term “Art Deco” derived from the 1925 Paris L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The purpose of the exhibition was to “unite art with industry”. The concept was to embody the ideas of this modern age with a complete break from the past. The work of designers was not to imitate earlier historical periods. They could, however, draw on ancient designs for inspiration, as long as the artisans adapted the designs in the modern style.

Gathering from diverse sources, we see motifs from Mayan and Aztec cultures; Egyptian themes that coincided with the discovery and worldwide interest in King Tut’s tomb, and interest in the striking patterns and colors inherent in African and Japanese art.

Walnut art deco dining table

The cost of fine handcrafted objects was out of the reach of many. Exotic woods, and other expensive materials made this new design form available only to the very wealthy. A need was created for production of machine-made objects in quantity, cost-efficient, modern looking and affordable to all; items that were not only functional, but beautiful in their simplicity.

Streamlined designs were applied to cars, trains, ships, and objects whose purpose was certainly not forward movement. Buildings, gas pumps, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, radios and gramophones, kitchen utensils, toasters, ceramics, pottery and glassware, clocks and wall sconces, and other everyday items all displayed this new form of design. Striking geometric patterns, bold and contrasting use of color, symmetry, lack of frills and of anything faintly romantic defined the style.

Art Deco concepts permeated all things in the 1920s and 1930s – architecture, fine art, cinema, graphics and advertising posters, and in fashion design for both men and women.

Bakelite and other new synthetic materials were particularly well-suited to the mass production of Art Deco jewelry. Now anyone regardless of their social position could afford the trendy and decorative pieces that were now available to all.

Sleek-looking metals, stainless steel, aluminum and chrome appeared in even the most common household items. The cocktail shaker became the symbol of fashionable sophistication in many middle-class homes. If you enjoy the “Thin Man” movies or any movie from the 1930’s, spot the cocktail service that was always present as part of the set decoration.

Walk into a home department at Macy’s, and you will most likely see a display of Fiesta Ware. Still popular with its simple, streamlined forms in brilliant colors, it was introduced by the Homer Laughlin China Co. of West Virginia in 1936.The line was noted for its Art Deco styling which featured concentric circles and a variety of bright colors and shapes. It was discontinued in 1972 due to changing tastes in dinnerware styles, but was reintroduced in 1984 with new glazes and colors. Popular again, Fiesta Ware is considered to be the most collected brand of china in the United States.

An organization devoted to the preservation of Art Deco in all its forms is the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. They are sponsoring a festival aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California from August 18-20. It will be a weekend of total immersion in the Art Deco era. They are also planning their annual Avalon Ball in January in the Casino on Catalina Island. The Catalina Casino on Avalon Bay, built in 1929, is a remarkable example of Art Deco design. Information and many interesting articles on preservation as well as other topics and events can be found on their website.

The theme of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – “A Century of Progress” sums up the underlying ideas of the period known as Art Deco:  Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts.

Art Deco survived into the early 1940’s when it evolved to mid-century modernism.

One of the most interesting assignments I’ve had was to appraise a large collection of Art Deco period furniture and posters for insurance purposes.   Identifying the exotic veneers was a challenge.

Sources

Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s. Alastair Duncan.

Harry N. Abrams New York, 2009.

Art Deco 1910-1939. Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, Ghislaine Wood, Editors

V & A Publications. London, 2003. (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. www.adsla.org

Art Deco. Young Mi Kim. Friedman/Fairfax. Architecture and Design Library

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry. Lillian Baker. Collector Books Paducah, Kentucky, 1981.

Websites

History of Art Deco. Bryan Mawr College. www. brynmawr.edu

Art Deco. The Art Story – Modern Art Insight. www.theartstory.org

Art Deco. Wikipedia.

Art Deco perfume bottle

Caring For Cut Glass

The American Cut Glass Association has a very informative website.   In addition to membership information there are tips on identifying cut glass, dating and patterns.

There are several free articles from past issues of their journal “The Hobstar”.  Among them are two articles by Vickie Matthews.

The Care and Cleaning of Cut Glass” has tips on handling, washing and displaying.  Since I’m located in an area prone to earthquakes, I especially like the suggestion of using a neutral wax or gel product sold at antique shops, hardware stores or on-line.   These products can be removed without harming the glass or signatures.

Packing and Shipping of Cut Glass” has tips on wrapping, boxing and using various shipping services.  Many of these tips can be used for transportation of glass, china or collectibles in general.

One of the best places to view cut glass in Southern California is the Historical Glass Museum in Redlands.   They have an entire room dedicated to American Cut Glass.  Located in a Victorian house, they have many other types of American made glass; the largest collection West of the Mississippi.  Check their website for upcoming lectures.

ANTIQUE and PERSONAL PROPERTY APPRAISALS

Antiques and Personal Property Appraisals

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a full time Certified Appraiser of Personal Property.  Designated with the International Society of Appraisers in Antiques, Furnishings + Decorative Art.  Member of the Desert Estate Planning Council and The Decorative Arts Trust.  Eighteen years of personal property appraisal experience, since 1999.

Phone: 619-670-4455

Serving the San Diego and Palm Desert, California regions

Reference: The Collector’s Handbook

The Collector’s Handbook, 10th edition  is written by James Halperin, Gregory Rohan and Mark Predergast in conjunction with Heritage Auctions.  Updated in 2016,  it contains sections on administering, estate planning, evaluating and selling your collection.  There are good references in the appendices as well.  At 181 pages, there is a wealth of information and advice for collectors and their heirs on how to protect their investment.

There are discussions in several chapters about the importance of having your collection appraised for different reasons including insurance, planning, donation, selling, estate tax or division.  It also mentions the importance of using professional and qualified personal property appraisers.

The book is available by free download on the Heritage Auctions website (registration required) or by hard copy for a nominal fee.  I highly recommend taking the time to download and keep a copy of this handy reference book.

Resource:

The Collector’s Handbook,

2016 Revised Edition, Ivy Press, Inc.

 

 

 

Death, Debt, Divorce, Disaster – The 4 D’s

We don’t like to think about it, but there are several situations where our art, antiques and collectibles will be affected in a major way.   Life’s events have a way of separating us from our possessions.

The Canadian Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers recently posted a good article on the subject titled “Not Till Death, Debt, Divorce Do We Part” by Julia McLaren.   It discusses the first three D’s and how proper planning and use of professional appraisers can assist during these times.

I would like add a fourth “D” to the list ….. disaster.  Our beloved objects can be damaged or in the worst case scenario, destroyed.  I discussed this subject in an earlier post titled  “Protecting Your Valuables from a Disaster”.

Protection of your collection and planning for the future is essential.  By having an inventory and professional appraisal, you can make informed decisions regarding insurance, donation, division or liquidation.  At the end of every episode of the TV show “Strange Inheritance” they remind us “you can’t take it with you”.

Collecting the Olympics

The fanfare, emotion and sports competition of the 2012 Olympics has passed.  Many collectors have found a way to extend the excitement year round by collecting Olympic memorabilia.  

You can start out inexpensively by collecting pins, coins, stamps and mascots from recent years.   Some collectors progress to a higher, more expensive level including medals and torches.  There’s something for every interest and budget.  To narrow down the choices begin collecting by category, year, country or sport.     

I have a modest Olympic collection of my own, and display many items in my office.  It started off when I worked at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.   I was stationed at the USC Olympic Village where I was able to trade pins with the athletes and collect small souvenirs.  Over the years, I have added items from other olympics to my collection.  However, I realized that the pins I collected directly from the athletes in Los Angeles mean the most to me because of their personal connection.     

As an appraiser, one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had was to appraise a silver award medal owned by an olympic athlete.   It was an insurance appraisal and it gave me the opportunity to examine the sales comparison approach (what similar items have sold for) versus the cost to reproduce the medal.   

If you still want a unique souvenir from the London Olympics, you can purchase something at the Official London 2012 Auction website.   They are auctioning off everything from game used equipment, to ceremony props and torches to help defer the cost of putting on the games.   

 

Appraiser of Olympics Memorabilia in California
Appraiser of Olympics Memorabilia in California

 

RESOURCES

Official website of the Olympic Movement

Olympic Collectibles and Collecting Olympic Memorabilia

Ingrid O’Neil Sports & Olympic Memorabilia

Olympin  – Olympic Collectors Club

Olympic Games Memorabilia and Collectibles

Top 10 Most Expensive Items of Olympic Memorabilia