Exhibition Programming | The ‘Westmorland’

Posted in conferences (to attend), exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on May 13, 2012

A posting here at Enfilade noted the exhibition last November. Here we include details on the programming at The Ashmolean.

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The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland, an Episode of the Grand Tour
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 17 May — 27 August 2012
The Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 20 September 2012 — 6 January 2013

Curated by Scott Wilcox, Elisabeth Fairman, and María Dolores Sánchez-Jáuregui Alpañés

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.

The exhibition is the result of an extraordinary research project begun in the late 1990s, with gaps in the story filled by discoveries made in recent years. It was found, for instance, that the mysterious marking ‘P. Y’ on books and drawings in the Academia indicated ‘Presa Ynglesa’ (‘The English Prize’). The original inventories of the ship’s crates which survive in the archives in Madrid are remarkably thorough and have allowed the identification of many items which were on the Westmorland when it was captured. Using these records and studying the notes and marginalia scribbled on books and maps by their owners, it is now possible to link the objects and works of art to the individuals who were sending them home to Britain.

Amongst the highlights of the exhibition are portraits of Grand Tourists Francis Bassett and George Legge (Viscount Lewisham), by Pompeo Batoni; a group of amazingly fresh watercolours by John Robert Cozens made on his first trip to Italy; and portrait busts by Irish sculptor Christopher Hewetson who was working in Rome. Of the tourists, collectors and dealers who had consigned works of art and souvenirs to the Westmorland, we find the Scottish painter Allan Ramsay; the diplomat and dealer John Udny; a Scottish landowner and lawyer, Sir John Henderson of Fordell; and such a high ranking aristocrat as the Duke of Gloucester, brother of George III.

The exhibition website is available here»

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From The Ashmolean:

P U B L I C  S T U D Y  D A Y

The Experience of Italy: Travel, Collecting and the Grand Tour
Headly Lecture Theatre, Friday, 8 June 2012, 10am–5pm

This special one-day event looks at the cultural context of the Westmorland and its story. As a rare time-capsule, the ship can help us uncover the concerns and interests of British tourists, collectors and artists, from their musical education to their fascination with volcanoes and excavations. Over the day, six distinguished speakers deliver lectures with the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the varied topics.

The Westmorland and the Mechanics of the Grand Tour in the 1770s
Jonathan Yarker, University of Cambridge

Vases and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and Collecting for Posterity
Kim Sloan, British Museum

Enjoying the Souvenirs of Travel: Art and Antiquities at Home
Clare Hornsby, author of Digging and Dealing in 18th-Century Rome

Music and the Musical Outcomes of the Grand Tour
Roderick Swanston, former Professor, Royal College of Music

Women at Grips with the Grand Tour: Adventure, Authority and Anomaly
Chloe Chard, independent scholar

British Artists in Rome
Martin Postle, Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art

Free, spaces limited, to book contact: education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278 015

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Uncovering the Westmorland, Step by Step
José María Luzón Nogué, Real Academia de Bellas Artes, Madrid
Thursday, 31 May, 2–3pm
We can reconstruct the extraordinary story of the Westmorland and its cargo thanks to fascinating detective work that began in the 1990s. In this lecture, Prof Luzón, who led the original research project, will take you on the journey which led to the rediscovery of the ship. Free, spaces limited, to book contact E education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278015

Marble Mania: Why Was Antique Sculpture So Desirable?
Ruth Guilding, art historian and curator
Wednesday, 20 June, 2–3pm
The Westmorland’s cargo included 23 crates of marble statues, and the ship was one of many which brought the souvenirs of British travellers back to London in the 1770s. Dr Guilding explores the way that antique sculpture was imagined, understood and used by collectors in England at the time. Free, spaces limited, to book contact E education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278015

The First English Prize: The Story of the Arundel Marbles
Susan Walker, Keeper of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum
Wednesday, 27th June, 2–3pm
Dr Susan Walker, Keeper of Antiquities, explores the history of the earliest collection of classical sculptures and inscriptions in Britain, a treasure of the Ashmolean Museum. Free, spaces limited, to book contact E education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278015

‘Magick Land’: British Landscape Painters in Italy in the 1770s
Scott Wilcox, Chief Curator of Art Collections and Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, Yale Center for British Art
Wednesday, 4th July, 2–3pm
Oil paintings and watercolors on the Westmorland by John Robert Cozens, Jacob More, and Solomon Delane point to a community of British landscape painters active in Italy. This lecture examines that community and the impact of Italy, particularly the Roman Campagna, on the development of British landscape art. Free, spaces limited, to book contact E education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278015

Carrying off the Colosseum: The Westmorland and Architecture
Frank Salmon, Head of the Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge
Wednesday, 18 July, 2–3pm
The personal treasures that were being shipped by Grand Tourists on the Westmorland included both real and fictitious drawings of Roman antiquities, as well as design drawings intended for building work back in Britain. This lecture will examine those drawings in the light of the wider culture of Neoclassical architecture and interior design in the second half of the eighteenth century. Free, spaces limited, to book contact E education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278015

In Conversation — New Discoveries: The Secret Cargo of Relics
Catherine Whistler, curator of the exhibition, and Barry Williamson
Thursday, 19 July, 11.30am –12.30pm
Just before the exhibition catalogue went to press, the Ashmolean was contacted by Barry Williamson who is an authority on the Arundell family of Wardour Castle. The Westmorland had a secret cargo, a box of saint’s relics carefully concealed in a plinth of coloured marbles. This was a gift from the Pope to Henry Arundell, eighth Baron Arundell of Wardour. The international research project had tracked these relics in Madrid in early 1789, but the trail had gone cold. Barry Williamson will talk about his discoveries in the family archives and his quest to find the relics. Free, spaces limited, to book contact E education.service@ashmus.ox.ac.uk T 01865 278015

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