Summer Outing 2012

The summer outing in 2012 was to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It included a talk on the special exhibition featured at that time: ‘The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland, an Episode of the Grand Tour’. To quote the museum’s website, 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 ... 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 140 objects including paintings, drawings, sculptures, books and maps from the fateful voyage, in a vivid recreation of the Grand Tour and the high seas.’

Robert Sutton reports: '18 members and guests enjoyed a very pleasant meal at the Pierre Victoire restaurant in Oxford before a visit to the Ashmolean Museum, including an introductory talk and a tour of the special exhibition. The latter gave a fascinating insight into the works of art and artefacts collected by sons of the English gentry on the Grand Tour, and also into the historical detective work involved in finding and researching them.  Despite one or two minor administrative problems, this was a very interesting and enjoyable day out.'