Sign In

The World's Finest Art & Luxury LifeStyle Magazine

Chaumet

The Capture of the Westmorland...a Historical Episode in Time

By: Daniel Evon

  • A portrait of Francis Basset painted in 1778

Francis Basset, the First Baron de Dunstanville who Commissioned the Artwork by Pompeo Batoni in 1778

View Full Screen Image

The capture of the British merchant ship Westmorland was a result of the conflict between Great Britain and France and their respective allies as part of the Revolutionary War in America. Seized by the French, the Westmorland was laden with a treasure-trove of gold, jewels and fine works of art acquired by wealthy British collectors on their Grand Tour of the Old Roman Empire. Here we see a wonderful portrait of Francis Basset, the first Baron de Dunstanville who commissioned the artwork by Pompeo Batoni in 1778 while touring Rome with fellow British travelers. Batoni was a technical master of his tradecraft and excelled at rendering allegorical and mythological pictures.

  • British tourists as they decide which paintings and antiquities to purchase
  • Giovanni Paolo Pannini Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome
  • Giovanni Paolo Pannini Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome
  • Giovanni Paolo Pannini Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome
  • Giovanni Paolo Pannini Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome
  • Giovanni Paolo Pannini Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome

Giovanni Paolo Pannini Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome

View Full Screen Image

/images-articles/20027/box1/1-new-1-pompeo-batoni-portrait-of-francis-basset-sm.jpg
/images-articles/20027/box2/1-new-2-giovanni-paolo-pannini-picture-gallery-with-views-of-modern-rome-sm.jpg
/images-articles/20027/box3/1-3-A-letter-from-Joseph-Wright-including-sketches-of-Castel-Saint-Angelo-and-Saincredit-sm.jpg

During 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries young British Bon Vivants began taking post-Oxford trecks to Italy in search of the roots of Western civilization, the ancient culture of Rome and the Prize of acquiring works of art from the fallen empire. With virtually unlimited funds these wandering aristocrats perfected their skill of the Italian language, commissioned their own portraits within the background of historical Rome and mingled with the upper crust of an emerging Continent. Here we see a painting that depicts British tourists as they decide which paintings and antiquities to purchase and send back to England. Rendered by the esteemed Giovanni Paolo Pannini in 1758, he was well known for his realistic representations of public celebrations and monuments in Rome.

  • Sketches of Castel Saint Angelo and Saincredit

A Letter from Joseph Wright including Sketches of Castel Saint Angelo and Saincredit

View Full Screen Image

Shortly after leaving the port of Livorno, Italy, the Westmorland was captured by the French Navy and escorted to Malaga, Spain, where the goods were auctioned off. The vast majority of the paintings were sold to King Carlos III. Most of the works of art purchased by the king were subsequently given to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid to be used as educational tools for Spanish artists. The English Prize acquired by the French would go on to become a cultural phenomenon as it ultimately changed preceptions of art in Spain for generations to come. Even so, these Italian works of art remained relatively unknown until quite recently when researchers identified the original inventories in the Academia’s archives revealing the Westmorland’s rich cargo.

  • Joseph Embarkation at Sunset

Joseph Embarkation at Sunset

View Full Screen Image

The American Revolution became the catalyst for the Anglo-French War that lasted from 1778 to 1783. France signed a peace treaty with the Colonies and loaned a significant amount of money for their war effort with the Crown. England, and France as a consequence began a defacto war causing the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and English Channel to be fought over for dominance. This left tourists and their treasures vulnerable to capture by the enemy as we see with the capture and disposition of the artistic contents of the Westmorland. In this painting above by Claude Lorraine, entitled Embarkation at Sunset, you can see the majesty of nautical travel during this time period.

  • The Capture of the Westmoreland

The Capture of the Westmorland

View Full Screen Image

The Capture of the Westmorland was not one of France's most significant military victories during the Anglo-French War, but it represents a cultural victory. With access to these paintings, Spanish artists gained new insight into what was popular in Rome, considered an ancient hub for art, and now Spanish artists could learn new techniques by deeply studying these paintings. During this period the sharing of culture and art become evident through imitation in taste and fashion, as well as art. The English Prize shines a historical light on the ships capture and the assimilation of the artistic contents, which include Pompeo Batoni’s portraits of Frances Bassett, Raphael Mengs’s Perseus and Andromeda, and watercolors by John Robert Cozens. This is but a short episode in time, a Grand Tour of young men who acquired a treasure trove of artifacts but were never able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

  • The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmoreland, An Episode of the Grand Tour

The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland, An Episode of the Grand Tour

View Full Screen Image

To learn more about the saga of the Westmorland and the art that was captured from her hold, consider ordering a copy of "The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland, An Episode of the Grand Tour" from Amazon.

Let's Get Social...Share this Article with a Friend

John Varvatos Palms International Costa Rica
Cesare Paciotti Ermenegildo Zenga Glenfiddich Wiskey

Inspired Art From our Select Galleries... shop now

You May Also Enjoy...These Fine Articles

January 20, 2014

The Amazing Hotel

Unforgettable! Hotel Caesar Augustus embraces those looking for some romance and serenity,...

June 08, 2017

TEFAF, Maastricht,

For three decades, TEFAF Maastricht has shone brightly as the world's pre-eminent art fair...

May 19, 2017

Adam Tihany and His

When it comes to hospitality design, no firm on earth can surpass New York City’s Tihany Design....

December 15, 2016

Dunhill London,

Whisper the term “Bespoke tailoring.” The words conjure images of Victorian-era British luxury,...

Oris Artelier