The Gouden Leeuw at the Battle of the Texel, 21 August 1673 (1687)
The Dutch artist Willem van de Velde the Younger was one of the foremost sea painters of the second half of the seventeenth century and went on to be celebrated in the centuries that followed. His father, Willem van de Velde the Elder, was also a renowned marine artist but it was his son who took the family talent to a new level.
This painting, of Admiral Cornelis Tromp’s flagship, the Golden Lion unleashing both broadsides at the Battle of the Texel in 1673, is considered one of his finest achievements: this painting represents one of history’s greatest marine painters at the peak of his powers.
Note that she flies the distinctive Dutch double-prince six-striped flag as the ensign on her main mast. Her lion motif is clearly visible on her stern. The opponent on her port side, half-concealed by the Golden Lion, is the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir John Chicheley, the Charles, whose mizzen mast is shown falling. To starboard of the Golden Lion, sailing downwind on the horizon with her starboard broadside visible, is a ship that is believed to be the Prince, the flagship of the English Admiral Prince Rupert, son of the Charles I’s sister, Elizabeth.
The battle was fought off the coast of Holland between a Dutch fleet and an allied Anglo-French fleet, to prevent the allied forces from landing troops. Tromp commanded the rear division of the Dutch fleet, which was under the overall command of Michiel de Ruyter, and they sufficiently damaged the allies that the attempt to land was abandoned.
The painting now hangs in the Queen’s House in Greenwich – a particularly appropriate location as it was once the studio of both Willem van de Velde and his father where they worked together under the patronage of Charles II from 1674.
The painting was bought for the National Maritime Museum with the assistance of the Society for Nautical Research in 1952.