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Art

Classic Beauties

Artists, Italy, and the Esthetic Ideals of the 18th century

All over mid-eighteenth century Europe, people watched with bated breath as excavations in Italy uncovered artistic treasures of stupefying beauty. It inspired artists to rediscover classic physical beauty and perfect its depiction. They also sparked a craze for travel among young aristocrats across the continent. Many undertook the Grand Tour: a pilgrimage to Italy, and in particular Rome, lasting many months. Among them were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the ‘Count and Countess of the North’ (the later Russian Tsar Paul I and his wife Maria Fyodorovna). Arriving in the Eternal City, Grand Tourists encountered renowned artists: Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Angelika Kauffmann and – most famous of all – Antonio Canova.

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