The Grand Soul Tour

I met a Traveller from an antique land…”
(P.B. Shelley, ‘Ozymandias’, 1818)

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

In 1699, when the Marquis Charles de Ferriol d’Argental was appointed French ambassador to the Ottoman court by Louis XIV, he took in his entourage a little-known artist from Valenciennes to paint the costumes and customs of the Ottoman capital and to record his mission. The marquis returned to France in 1711, but Jean-Baptiste Vanmour stayed on in Istanbul… Vanmour was never a great artist, but he was in effect the first of the orientalist painters. Charles de Ferriol, for his part, was whimsical and quick-tempered. But in 1712, soon after his return to Paris, he did have the genius to publish engravings of a hundred Ottoman portraits which he had ordered from Vanmour in 1708 and 1709. The work was an overwhelming success. Jean Michel Casa tells the story of how many years later it came to the aid of the celebrated Guardi brothers, then at the height of their fame, commissioned by the great marshal von der Schulenburg, who had defeated the Ottomans at Corfu and retired to a palazzo in Venice, to paint fourteen oriental scenes. Source: Cornucopia 5

The Grand Tour was a European travel itinerary that flourished from about 1660 until the arrival of mass rail transit in the 1820s. It was popular amongst young British upper-class men and served as an educational rite of passage for the wealthy. Its primary value lay in the exposure both to the cultural artifacts of antiquity and the Renaissance and to the aristocratic and fashionable society of the European Continent. A grand tour could last from several months to several years.

The idea of travel for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 18th century. With John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) it was argued, and widely accepted, that knowledge comes entirely from the external senses, that what one knows comes from what physical stimuli one has been exposed to. Thus one could “use up” the environment, taking from it all it had to offer, requiring a change of location. Travel therefore was an obligation for the person who wanted to further develop the mind and expand knowledge. The typical 18th century sentiment was that of the studious observer traveling through foreign lands reporting their findings on human nature for those less fortunate who stayed at home. Traveling observation became a duty, an obligation to society at large to increase its welfare. The Grand Tour flourished in this mindset.

The Grand Tour not only provided a liberal education, it provided those who could afford it the opportunity to buy things that were otherwise not available at home, and thus to increase prestige and standing. Grand Tourists would return with crates of art books, pictures, sculpture and other items of culture which would be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens and drawing rooms.

The Grand Tour became a symbol of wealth and freedom.

In contrast, you do not need to be wealthy to participate in this tour, a tour which is a part of the annual Soul Food Cafe Advent Calendar. Travellers have spent the last two years traversing Lemurian soil and the 2006 Calendar celebrates their adventures. This Grand Tour is a sub tour of the calendar and provides everyone with the opportunity to fly on the wings of imagination.


Heather Blakey
Webmaster: Soul Food Cafe