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17 May 2012

“The English Prize”

“The English Prize – the Capture of the Westmoreland” at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 17 May – 27 August 2012; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 4 October 2012 – 13 January 2013

Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787), Portrait of Francis Basset, 1st Baron of Dunstanville, 1778. Oil on canvas, 221 x 157 cm. Signed and dated: “Pom- peius de Batoni. Pinx. Romae 1778”. © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. 

“The story of the Westmorland, an armed merchant ship sailing from Livorno to London in January 1779, is one of colourful 18th-century personalities and modern detective work. Consigned to the ship, by a cast of characters that included artists, aristocrats and dealers, was a precious cargo of art and antiquities, books, and luxury goods such as 32 wheels of Parmesan cheese. Captured by two French warships on 7 January 1779 and declared a ‘prize of war’, the Westmorland and the goods on board were acquired by King Carlos III of Spain who presented many of the works of art to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. Other items were eventually scattered across Spanish museums; one painting ended up as far away as St Petersburg. Reconstructed with archival discoveries and research in Spanish collections, The English Prize presents 120 objects including paintings, drawings, sculptures, books and maps from the fateful voyage, in a vivid recreation of the Grand Tour and the high seas.” (from the press release, recorded here along with details of the accompanying events programme)