The story of the “Westmorland” — a British merchant ship laden with works of art that was captured by French warships in 1779 — is chronicled in a new exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art.
Traveling from Livorno, Italy, the “Westmorland” was captured by two French warships and escorted to Málaga in southern Spain, where the ship was declared a prize of war. The contents of the ship — art purchased by young British travelers on the Grand Tour of Italy — were acquired by a Spanish trading company, which in turn sold most of the works of art to King Carlos III of Spain.
“The English Prize: The Capture of the ‘Westmorland’, an Episode of the Grand Tour” brings together many of the works aboard the “Westmorland,” including about 140 paintings, watercolors, architectural drawings, sculptures, rare books, maps, and souvenirs. The exhibition forms “a complete cross section of Grand Tour collecting at the height of this cultural phenomenon,” note to the organizers.
Much of the material aboard the “Westmorland” was subsequently presented by the king to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, and many of the objects remain in the Real Academia today.
“The English Prize” has been co-organized by the Yale Center for British Art and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, in association with the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford. Scott Wilcox, chief curator of art collections and senior curator of prints and drawings at the center, and María Dolores Sánchez-Jáuregui Alpañés, senior research fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and affiliate of the Real Academia, curated the exhibition.
The exhibition will be on view to the public Oct. 4-Jan. 13 at the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St. For museum hours and directions, visit the Yale Center for British Art or call 203-432-2800.