The early musealization of writers’ and artists’ houses through guidebooks
Writers’ and artists’ residences developed into museums only at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, when houses inhabited by Walpole, Rousseau and Petrarch as well as Canova’s birthplace were turned into tourist destinations. This shift is apparent in the guidebooks to these mansions published in the decades between 1780 and 1840. In examining such booklets, this article highlights the long-term transformations of the phenomenon of the writers’ and artists’ house, and particularly the changing interaction of curators and visitors these texts allow to identify. In order to investigate this evolution in museological communication, this essay discusses the guidebooks to Horace Walpole’s Twickenham villa (1784), Petrarch’s country house in Arquà close to Padua (1797 and 1830), the villa and gardens designed by Melchiorre Cesarotti in Selvazzano also close to Padua (1810), Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Les Charmettes” near Chambéry (1811) and Canova’s studio/residence/museum in Possagno (1837).
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