The Italian Journey: From Goethe to the Grand Tourists with Dr. Alexandra Massini

The Italian Journey: From Goethe to the Grand Tourists with Dr. Alexandra Massini


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In the eyes of Goethe, an extended trip to Italy was an indispensable part of one’s education. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many ardent travelers would journey to Venice, Florence, Naples, and Rome in search of a practical education on Roman civilization. This conversation will explore the myth of Italy in the eyes of Goethe and other famous travelers.

Goethe’s "Italian Journey" (1786-88) originated from the need to rekindle his creativity and escape the bureaucratic duties of his role as advisor of the Duke of Saxony. It was also a quest for an enchanted world which, in his imagination, he set in the Arcadia of the classical past and which he colored with the soft and golden light of the Mediterranean landscape. ""Et in Arcadia ego"" are indeed the words that he chose as an epigraph and summary of his tale, providing a picture of Italy that lasted well beyond his age. In this talk, we shall discuss the myth that Goethe and other Grand Tourists, past and present, set out to discover and the realities that they encountered. At times impressive, fascinating, or charming, at others amusing, unintelligible, or even unnerving, each traveler reformulated his/her image of Italy. We’ll discuss how there was a feeling of being ‘born again’ during their stay and certainly transformed upon their return.

Led by Alexandra Massini, an expert in the Italian Renaissance and the reception of Classical Antiquity, we shall explore Italy with the eyes of Goethe and the Grand Tourists. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of the early Romantic period.

Alexandra Massini was raised in Italy and Germany, before moving to the U.K. where she studied History of Art. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Warwick, B.A. and M.A. degrees with Double Distinction from the Courtauld Institute of Art, as well as a Diploma from the Study Centre for the History of the Fine and Decorative Arts. Currently, Alexandra is the Academic Director of CEA Study Abroad in Rome, where she also teaches History of Art. Aside from her academic activity, she works as author, consultant, and speaker for documentaries on art and history, collaborates with the Colonna and Doria Pamphilj galleries in Rome, and curates the Art Collection of the Rome Cavalieri Hotel (Waldorf-Astoria). As a licensed guide, she conducts specialized visits for embassies, governmental institutions, collectors, and museum curators and has acted as study leader for U.S. organizations such as the World Monuments Fund and the National Trust USA. In the past, she has written for Blue Guides and has published her own guide book to Rome, has worked for the Thyssen Museum in Madrid and Sotheby’s Auctioneers in Rome, and has organized large scale events for international investor groups. She is tri-lingual in German, Italian, and English, fluent in Spanish, and has a working knowledge of French.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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