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This exhibition tells a grand tale of artistic riches and intrigue on the high seas.
anonymous, portrait of an unknown man, c 1775
Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes
It features highlights from the lavish cargo of the English merchant ship Westmorland, which was siezed in 1779 by the French while laden with the purchases of British Grand Tourists making their way around Italy.
This valuable hoard of antiquities, paintings and objets d'art passed into the spanish royal collection and ended up in the Royal Academy, Madrid. Some virtuosic research in recent years has filled the gaps in the story of what became known as the 'Presa ynglesa' (The English Prize), and, as you will discover, it is now possible to link the objects on display to the people who originally packed them on board the Westmorland.
What the critics say
The English Prize treats its players compositely, so that their possessions build up the picture of a mid-Georgian taste.
Most historical exhibitions look at turning points in history. This one examines an event that occurred at a particular moment in time.