The Society of the Dilettanti

The Society of the Dilettanti was set up in 1734 as a noblemen's and gentlemen's dining club by a group who had experienced a Grand Tour and wished to preserve its spirit and traditions. It soon became an arbiter of taste, aiming to disseminate the culture and style of classical antiquity - thus to foster neo-classicism.

Initially the Society sponsored Italian opera, then, in the 1750s, was concerned with the establishment of what became the Royal Academy of Arts. A major contribution, however, was the funding of scholarships for youths to travel on a Grand Tour, or for archaeological expeditions, such as that undertaken by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett to Greece.  Members of the Society included Stuart, Thomas Hope, Sir Joseph Banks and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted a pair of group portraits,  one of which showed Sir William Hamilton examining his original Portland vase.

 

Images

Wedgwood jasper portrait medallion of Sir Joseph Banks, member of the Society of the Dilettanti

Wedgwood jasper portrait medallion of Sir Joseph Banks, member of the Society of the Dilettanti