Maritime Art

The Santa Maria at Anchor c.1628

By Andries Van Eertvelt (1590-1652)

This painting by the Flemish marine artist Andries Van Eertvelt (1590-1652) shows the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus at anchor in 1492. Painting more than a century after the event, Van Eertvelt became interested in Mediterranean landscape and history after a tour of Italy in the late 1620s and here is freely and energetically exercising his imagination of a significant historical event.

Sailors can be seen against the early morning light making preparations to sail. The galleon wears a striped red and gold ensign, the traditional Spanish colours. The similar flag at the fore has the addition of a religious figure, which is almost certainly the Virgin Mary.

Columbus left from southern Spain in August 1492 in the Santa Maria, a large carrack, with two smaller vessels, caravels, the ‘Niña’ and ‘Pinta’. The Santa Maria was owned by Juan de la Cosa, an important navigator and cartographer, famous for designing the earliest European world map which includes the earliest undisputed representation of the Americas and the only cartographic work made by an eyewitness of the first voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Indies that has been preserved.

This painting is part of an extraordinary collection of early Netherlandish marine paintings collected by Captain Eric Palmer and purchased in 1963 with the assistance of the Society from his widow.

You can read articles published in The Mariner’s Mirror relating to Christopher Columbus here  and there is a particularly interesting and important article on a model of the Santa Maria, published in the May 1930 edition, which is the transcript of a paper presented to a small meeting by R.C. Anderson, a scholar and ship modeller. In the article Anderson explains the extensive research he had undertaken to ascertain the size of the actual vessel and how it was rigged. He concluded that the depth was 13ft. the beam 27ft. and the length, stem to stern post, 81ft., giving a tonnage of just over 200. His presentation was followed by a discussion involving acknowledged experts on medieval vessels.

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