‘Grand Tour’ Plaster Intaglio Casts

Object: JI1819a-c
JIAAW Collection

While the provenance of these particular objects is unknown, plaster reliefs such as these were popular souvenirs in the 18th and 19th centuries. A tradition for wealthy young European men and women was a Grand Tour of Europe, lasting for months or even years, with visits to major cities and cultural sites. Artisans took advantage of the popularity of carved gems by making similar objects out of less expensive materials, such as plaster, to be purchased by travelers as mementos of their tour. Plaster intaglio casts were often mounted into books or cases and usually depict historical and mythological figures and scenes. The theme of this set of casts is “Mitologia” (mythology).

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

See other examples of plaster intaglio casts and learn more about The Grand Tour here:

Untitled Document

“As such it (the Grand Tour) fulfilled a major social need, namely the necessity of finding young men, who were not obliged to work and for whom work would often be a derogation, something to do between school and the inheritance of family wealthŠIt allowed the young to sow their wild oats abroad and it kept them out of trouble, including disputed with their family, at home.”

Italy on the Grand Tour (Getty Exhibitions)

Three exhibitions at the Getty explore the Grand Tour and its importance as an 18th-century artistic and cultural phenomenon.

From the Harvard Art Museums’ collections Collection of 114 Plaster Casts in a wooden box

Identification and Creation Physical Descriptions Medium Wooden box, plaster casts Dimensions 8.8 x 20.3 x 33.4 cm (3 7/16 x 8 x 13 1/8 in.) Provenance Dr. George E. Ellis, Boston, MA; [1] to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA, gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1910.