The Grand Tour was a journey of cultural initiation which young artists, aristocrats, collectors and statesmen in the XVIII and XIX centuries undertook in Italy in order to experience the survival of classical culture. To document this formative ritual, which quickly became a status symbol, souvenir images emerged in the ‘700 which were reproduced in series in order to prolong the mythical dimension of the places visited. It’s the case, for example, of the two pictures by the German artist Rosa da Tivoli, of the View with ruins by Francesco Maria Costa, or indeed by the French artist Hubert Robert. Both are inventories of architecture and sculpture, of statues and capitals which dominate a Roman landscape painted freely with light touches of colour.
During his travels in Italy, the Dutch painter Pieter Mulier, nicknamed il Tempesta (the storm), was given a particularly warm welcome by the last Farnese Dukes to the extent that he stayed in Parma for a number of months. In the pair of landscapes on display both of an arcadian taste, the artist organises the natural views with contrasting schemes: on one side a wide valley which opens under a cloudy sky with a backdrop of a ruined building and a tree; on the other a painting within a wood with shepherds and animals around a waterfall.
The German painter Johann Zoffany arrived in the city in 1778 to paint the portrait of Duchess Maria Amalia. Nominated honorary Academician, he painted various works for the Bourbon court including La Scartocciata, a rural concert scene in the country villa of the architect Petitot and the small tablet with a self portrait with a Madonna and Child on the back. In this unusual scene Zoffany is shown in his studio in the act of putting on a Franciscan robe with in the background as well as the tools of a painter’s trade a collection of objects in stark contrast between the sacred and the profane: a rosary and a pair of condoms.