Skip to main content

In the 19th century, wealthy Americans enjoyed extensive explorations of Europe, many traveling to the continent multiple times in their lives. They formed their own Grand Tour, modeled on the British custom of exploring classical sites in Italy. American travelers collected art and furnishings along the way. This exhibition features many of these souvenirs collected by Savannah families.

Savannah sisters Mary and Margaret Telfair enjoyed four trips to Europe, traveling throughout the continent and visiting many famous sites. On their first trip in 1841, Margaret Telfair met and married William Brown Hodgson, a fascinating man with vast intellectual interests. Hodgson became an integral member of this intimate family group and made three more trips to Europe with the sisters over the next 30 years. A former diplomat to the Barbary States, Algeria, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Peru, Hodgson spoke 13 languages. Once Hodgson relocated to Savannah, he pursued a wide variety of academic studies, including Islamic culture, linguistics, orientalism, and geology.

The exploration and consumption of cultures has been a common pastime in the West for hundreds of years. Considering Hodgson’s fascination with cultures of the East, part of the exhibition features fine and decorative arts obtained and showcased by Europeans searching for the exoticism of the Orient. Many of these textiles and ceramics were imported to the United States, while others were made by Americans in “oriental” styles. As these motifs became popular, more images of the East were sent back to Europe. European photographers captured choreographed images taken in front of painted backdrops that embodied eastern stereotypes.

To learn more, view our opening lecture.

This exhibition is organized by Telfair Museums and curated by Shannon Browning-Mullis, Curator of History and Decorative Arts.