(Antwerp, 1585 – Madrid, 1662)
View II of Naval Battle of Pernambuco
oil on canvas
150 x 224.3 cm
Inv. no. 514
The painting, a representative example of the painter’s style, based on formulas that were already somewhat outdated for his time, constitutes an exceptional graphic document of one of the most salient naval campaigns in the fight between the Spanish Kingdom and the United Provinces of the Netherlands for the ownership and control of America.
The canvas documents the naval battle that took place off the Brazilian coast of Pernambuco, 240 miles away from the Albrolhos, on September 12 and 13 1631.
The naval battle between the Dutch fleet, led by Adriaen Janszoon Pater, and the Spanish-Portuguese fleet, led by Captain General Antonio de Oquendo, resulted in the victory of the latter, despite his inferiority in number of ships as well as men.
This view (II), along with another one (III) currently held at the Museo Naval, used to be part of a series of four that offered an excellent graphic account of the unfolding of the battle. Antonio de Oquendo himself commissioned the series to the painter Juan de la Corte to give it to King Philip IV (1621-1640), who was a great collector of paintings. It was hung in the Alcázar, and was referenced in its 1636 inventory as being in the “hallway that goes from the gallery of Tricks to the midday gallery” and labelled with the numbers 439-442 (Four oil painted canvases, without frames, depicting the battle of Don Antonio de Oquendo in year 1631, with a legend in three lines below each describing the event. They were given by the aforementioned Don Antonio), and also in the 1686 records, as being in “the passage at the top of the first staircase”. These two views were spared from the fire of the Alcázar in 1734, and a third one may have been as well, since it appears in the inventory of what had been salvaged, although its current whereabouts are unknown.
Originally the bottom of the paintings contained a description of the events, which currently does not exist in either painting, since the one in view II was cut off (probably following the fire) and the one in view III is covered by another legend, consisting of two lines, from the 19th century. The existence of another series—consisting of only two paintings of smaller dimension—commissioned by Oquendo to Juan de la Corte to keep for himself, and which is currently the property of his descendants (Collection of the Duques del Infantado), confirms the presence of these inscriptions when the paintings were first made.
In the bottom left corner of the sail of the last caravel we see the signature: “F. Juan de la Corte”. In the top left corner, there is a rose of the winds and the numbering of this view: “II”. In the oval legend, we read the following caption: “A, cappna de españa / B, cappna. de olanda. C, almi / ranta de españa, D, almiranta / de olanda, E, galeon sanbuenauen / tura. F, galeon del enemigo, G, ga / leon que acompaño a la capitana de o / landa, H,I,L, nauios de azuca / res y carauelas del socorro que es / tan abrigadas de la armada”. The bottom caption is cut off.