Sir William Chambers and the Grand Tour: Reconciling Classicism and the Orient in 18th Century Rome

Wednesday 6 June 2012  18.00


Sir William Chambers and the Grand Tour: Reconciling Classicism and the Orient in 18th Century Rome


Prof Nicholas Temple (Lincoln)

Paul Mellon Rome Fellow Lecture


Reconciling Orientalism and Classicism

Geography and Sinomania in Jesuit Missions and Sir William Chambers’ Grand Tour

In this lecture, which is based on a work-in-progress research project, I will trace changes in the perception and representation of China from the Baroque to the Rococo and Neo-Classical periods, and how geographical knowledge, intellectual enquiry and architectural/artistic representation served as a platform for negotiating shifting tastes and cultural priorities in Rome and elsewhere in Europe. More specifically, the lecture will focus on the transition from the Jesuit treatment of Chinese culture, as essentially an ethnographic concern (that accommodated and even assimilated local customs and certain religious practices within the catholic liturgy), to one primarily informed by trading interests and aesthetic preoccupations in architecture and gardens, as indicated in the ideas and work of Sir William Chambers (eminent British architect and garden designer, Grand Tour resident in Rome and one time merchant on the Swedish East India Company to China and India). Drawing upon a wealth of material – frescoes, treatises, diaries, maps and buildings – the lecture will highlight how the reception of China in Europe, during the 17th and 18th centuries, constituted a key aspect of an emerging modern outlook.


St. Ignatius Church, Rome, Ceiling Fresco, Apotheosis of St Ignatius (Andrea Pozzo, 1685-94), Photo by Antony Majanlahti (2005)

Outline of Book


Renovatio urbis: Architecture, Urbanism and Ceremony in the Rome of Julius II (Routledge Publishers, Classical Tradition in Architecture Series, edited by Caroline van Eck, 2011)


Renovatio urbis examines the urban, architectural and artistic projects in Rome during the Pontificate of Julius II (1503-1513), with specific focus on the developments along the east and west banks of the Tiber River. Drawing upon a range of textual and visual material, the book considers these ambitious projects in the context of the vision of Rome as both the ‘New Jerusalem’ and the renewed imperial city. Each chapter focuses on a particular project, from the Palazzo dei Tribunali to the Stanza della Segnatura, and examines their topographical settings and symbolic meanings in relationship to the status of Julian Rome as a ‘golden age’.