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By the eighteenth century, the Grand Tour had become an established part of a young aristocrat’s education. Lasting anywhere from several months to several years, a Grand Tour involved visiting the great sites and monuments of Europe. Italy held a particular allure and many artists responded to the market created by these wealthy visitors. Pompeo Girolamo Batoni became the portrait painter of choice for British Grand Tourists, while the view paintings (or ‘vedute’) of the French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet were highly sought after.

In France, artists embraced the soft colours, sensual subject matter and natural forms of the Rococo. Antoine Watteau popularised the fête galante – small-scale depictions of amorous scenes and musical pastimes – while François Boucher delighted patrons with his pretty shepherdesses and shapely nymphs.