Collection of Thomas S. Holman – Skinner Prov 4-5-2014

Ex Collection of Thomas S. Holman: Souvenirs of The Grand Tour

In the 18th and early 19th century young Englishmen embarked on lengthy travels to the Continent,
known as the Grand Tour. Ostensibly, the voyage was to round out one’s education, which still emphasized
a strong knowledge of Classical arts and architecture, languages, history, literature, and philosophy. It also
provided months, and sometimes even years, to collect art and artifacts. Later in the 19th century, the
advent of rail and steamship travel allowed the middle-class to continue the tradition of the Grand Tour.
As part of a specific itinerary that primarily included stops in Italy and France, Grand Tourists visited
archeological excavations in the hope of witnessing pottery or sculptural artifacts being exhumed. As the
number of Grand Tourists grew, so did the demand for ancient artifacts to be taken home as souvenirs.
A cottage industry emerged providing miniature models and “object de art” celebrating the Classical
world to help fill the demand. Italians were quick to make souvenir buildings or ruins in bronze, alabaster,
and marble, so that Grand Tourists could buy a model of what they had just seen, such as in the Roman
Forum. Artisans went so far as to fire Classical-style pottery with encrustations to simulate the mud found
on excavated antique examples.

Thomas S. Holman assembled his collection of souvenirs of the Grand Tour over the course of fortytwo
years. He started acquiring at the age of eighteen. His interest developed from his exposure to the
ancient world through childhood trips to London, Paris, and Greece. He studied at Oxford University and
the University of Vienna and traveled as an adult to Munich, Berlin, Italy, England, and France. During
vacations, he became a treasure hunter in Europe. Holman haunted flea markets, antique markets, antique
shops, and dealers of fine and decorative arts. He has a theory: If he owns one item it is because he
admires it, if he owns two then he has a pair, but if he owns three that means he is collecting it.
Tom Holman’s collection began with Antique-style Grand Tour vessels as a less expensive alternative to
the cost prohibitive originals. Bronze columns, such as Trajan’s Column in Rome, and Egyptian obelisks
came next, followed by a variety of models and micromosaics of Rome. Holman’s most prized pieces are
the carved alabaster and marble monuments, arches, and buildings of Rome, particularly the Pantheon.
For Tom Holman, these souvenirs of ancient buildings and ruins represent the wonders of the world, while
also referencing the cultural phenomenon that was the Grand Tour. Holman, who for the past forty years
served as a museum curator and director, looks forward to dispersing “The Tom Holman Museum” and
sharing these objects with other collectors and enthusiasts.

Information courtesy of Skinner, Inc. April 2014

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