I love Kevin McCloud and his program Grand Designs (the Australian version is but a pale imitation), and I also loved his program "Kevin McCloud's Grand Tour" in which he detailed the standard experience for a well to do gentleman from the 17th-19th Century. A slow journey (lasting several years) through France, Italy, Switzerland with occasional side tours of Greece was considered a rite of passage. Most educated men at this time were schooled in Latin and Greek, and were taught to admire the classical scholars of the ancient world. Naturally the tour was supposed to be about cultural enlightenment, although it also included gambling and a bit of carousing on the side.





Just as we do today, most people collected souvenirs on their trip to show off once they had returned home. This was designed to show off their newly acquired knowledge and high levels of taste. For the most wealthy, they brought home actual Classical statues dug up in ancient Rome and then built homes with special galleries to display them in, such as at Keddleston Hall, Syon House and Chatsworth. Another large trade was in Intaglios, which were small plaster casts of carved classical images (Gods, scenes from classical stories, statesmen etc) and they would put them into special cases or books, rather like the more modern day postcard, or a replacement of the 18th Century version of the slide show you'd subject your peers to. An Intaglio is similar to a Cameo, but rather than the carving being raised from the background as it is in a cameo, it was instead impressed into the stone - a plaster cast of the original Intaglio would therefore be cameo like in showing the image in relief.







Intaglios were also used as seals to authenticate documents and as talismans and mementos back in ancient Rome. These stones are still incorporated into jewellery to this day. Part of the reason why I was attracted to the jewellery made by Elizabeth Gage, (I blogged about her beautiful ring boxes in the past), was that many of her pieces contained Intaglios, or otherwise have a lot of classical detailing.


I have always loved the simplicity of the little plaster casts, which upon closer inspection contain such detail and interest. For our bedroom, which is in grey and whites, I decided that the perfect art for the walls would be framed Intaglios from the Grand Tour. Unfortunately though, the originals are highly collectable, and quite expensive. Maybe one day....






In the meantime, I did a bit of a google search, and found someone in England that does plaster reproductions of classical Intaglios. I ordered a box of 150 for a very small amount of money (maybe $20 from memory?), selected the best ones and glued them on some mounting card that matched our room, then had them framed professionally. And I'm very happy with the result.




Not quite the real deal, but a little bit of someone's Grand Tour on my bedroom walls.

all images via my Pinterest boards, except for the last two

30 comments:

  1. I'm a great fan of Kevin McCloud, too. We love Grand Designs, and you're right about the Aus version. That man, although good, just can't match Kevin!
    I think your idea for Intaglio on your walls is wonderful! Maybe one day you'll be able to source some real ones. Or you could get your kids making you some?!
    Looking forward to seeing that Jenny Kee scarf if you find it! X

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    1. Will try to remember the scarf next time I'm up at Dad's for you. Will do a few fashion-y posts next week I think.

      Kevin cannot be imitated - the man, whose name I can't remember (Peter?) is just not the same.

      Real intaglios cost around $1000 per sheet in bad condition. At the moment that sort of money is going into concrete. Boring, but necessary! xx

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  2. oh Heidi - don't mind if I copy your idea to you? Love the end finish - mind you you did a great job of the framing of it. Looks so lovely - like one of those pieces you do stop and stick your neck into to have a better look.

    I do adooooooore Kevin - he is on my dream dinner party list - he is just so smart but not arrogant about it. I love how he just seamlessly talks to architects in italian, spanish, and french. My smart boy crush for sure!! xx

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    1. Don't mind at all! If you'd like the source of the intaglios, let me know.

      Agree re Kevin, and love that he speaks so many foreign languages. Especially impresses me because I can't. You know he painted Harrods Food Hall?! xx

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    2. Yes, yes, yes, totally agree with coulda shoulda woulda. Would love to have Kevin at a dinner party.
      Did he really paint Harrods Food Hall? When? Must go and google this!

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    3. He did it years ago when the big revamp was done (early 80's maybe?) all those Grinling Gibbons style painted swags of fruit and meat and other food were his work.

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  3. Oh - I love learning new things about him.
    i did notice that in that grand tour show he did sit down and sketch buildings freehand and he was just soooo talented. I am going a little tooooo effusive about him and teenagery with my excessive o's so i apolgize- I like to call it intellectual stalking.

    I will go in and just admire the surroundings while american tourists bump into me while admiring british horse meat passed as beef.

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    1. Kevin can do no wrong in my eyes either. He is on my ideal Dinner Party guest list. Mr AV loves him too.

      Def. go into Harrods and look up at the ceilings and think of Kevin! xx

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    2. This last para re ceilings is hilarious Heidi... Really had me giggling!! X

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    3. Oh I was thinking of censoring myself but Aussie girls have the best sense of humour so I shall just blurt it out here...

      But Heidi - I must be extrapulating all sorts out of nothing because when you said look up at the ceilings and think of Kevin - my initial reaction was oh yes - instead of lying back and thinking of England I thought you meant lie back and think of Kevin. (I know, I am terrible Muriel.)

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    4. Ha CSW! You've reminded me of being at the Inchbald and someone saying something that could have had a second (much dirtier) meaning.... the Aussie, Canadian and Irish girls all got a fit of the giggles. All the Brits and Europeans didn't get it at all!

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  4. What an interesting post! I like the ones that you hung. And who are those cute pups playing on your bedside table? I'm a sucker for an animal figurine.

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    1. Those little china Jack Russell's are made by my talented Sister in Law. They're modelled on their family dog back when he was more puppy like! xx

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    2. Wow, that is talent! They are very cute.

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  5. Laughing at Coulda Shoulda Woulda's intellectual stalking of Kevin. When my kids were toddlers/babies Grand Designs used to be on at 6pm on the ABC. I always used to have it on while I cooked dinner etc and had a glass of wine. I called it "having a drink with Kevin" time. Unfortunately he never stayed for dinner....

    Love the intaglios. Would love the source too. I like things on the wall that make people walk up and have a closer look. Is that weird?

    Take care.

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    1. Love your "Having a drink with Kevin" time. But how rude he never stayed for dinner!

      http://www.plastercraftinteriors.co.uk/userimages/procart11.htm This is the source for the Intaglios, but when I looked the prices have gone up (I got the unframed ones at the bottom of the page). I bought mine a couple of years ago. If you want some of the leftovers, I'm happy to post them to you xx

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    2. Heidi - that would be lovely of you! Are you sure it's not too much trouble? I will email later.

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    3. Not at all!! Email me and I'll get them into the post for you next week. x

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  6. Thanks for s lovely post Heidi as well as the comments girls... Very amusing!!..

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    1. There have been some very funny comments! xx

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  7. Grand Designs is a programme I enjoy too. You have been so creative here and what a fabulous result - a really clever idea! Interesting and informative post!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Thanks miss b, I'm yet to find anyone that doesn't like Grand Designs (although I suppose there must be someone out there...!) xx

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  8. Heidi! I LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. I am actually going to do this (or something similar) in my living room. I found a source on etsy (reproductions) but I will look at that link. I really like these ones http://www.horchow.com/p/Framed-Intaglios-intaglios/cprod89410026___/?icid=&searchType=MAIN&rte=%252Fsearch.jsp%253FN%253D0%2526Ntt%253Dintaglios&eItemId=cprod89410026&cmCat=search but I will do it myself like you have and said it out for lovely professional framing. Love getting things framed. So worth it.

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    1. The frame really does make a difference Laura. I bought a little watercolour at one of the local auction houses for $30 a couple of weeks ago - the frame was awful, which is why I'm sure it was overlooked by others. The new frame makes it look like a much more important piece. xx

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  9. Dear Heidi
    You've got me started thinking about who should be on the list of the thinking woman's "Dinner Party Guest": definitely Kevin, Monty Don maybe, Ralph Fiennes (as in "The English Patient" - not in Harry Potter, which I have to admit has rather ruined my image of him), Colin Firth, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Irons, dare I say Stanley Tucci and the current James Bond (having a senior moment and can't remember his name) though I concede this is a strange mix. Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. I like your list Pamela.... although dare I point it out, but you've made up a male only Dinner Party... except for you of course! I'm sure you'll be the centre of every male's attention at your party!!

      I'd love to sit next to Monty Don as well, I'd also like Nigella Lawson as a dinner guest, as she has a zest for life and is erudite. Hugh Jackman would be good fun too... I will have to have a bit of a think and put a list together myself! xx

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    2. Can I sit between Kevin and Stanley? Monty might get a little too heavy and all that gardening knowledge would be wasted on me although I did love his last bbc 4 3 parter on french gardens - if it hasn't come yet to Oz - it is a must see.

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    3. Dear Heidi

      Ooops! Was thinking of them also as possible crushes and some who might be interesting conversationalists! I could just hang on Jeremy Irons' voice, whatever he said I think. Best wishes, Pamela
      PS Yes, really at a dinner party would of course have women guests and Nigella would be great but would then be terribly timid then about providing the food! Must think about other women guests.

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  10. Kevin McCloud is my secret crush. There is just something about him and I totally agree about the Australian version, although I do enjoy watching it just to see the houses. Apparently the producers of the show are struggling to find houses for them to film though which is a shame. Love, love, love the Intaglio collections, they look amazing framed! x

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    1. It doesn't surprise me that they're struggling to find decent houses.... I for one would be very reluctant to be on the show - they have a tendency to over dramatise things, and I don't find Peter as thoughtful in his choice of words about the designs as Kevin is... I'd be very worried about what he'd be saying!!
      Was very pleased with the Intaglios, they came up well! xx

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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