Maritime Art

Witte de With’s Action with Dunkirkers off Nieuwpoort, 1640 (II)

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This month’s featured work of art is the companion piece to last month’s.

The painting probably shows an engagement in 1645 between Admiral Witte Corneliszoon de With (1599-1658) and the man in overall command of the Spanish fleet in Flanders, Admiral Miguel de Horna who had just returned from a privateering voyage. The Dutch fought well in the battle and captured two Spanish vessels. It is likely that this painting – along with its pair- were commissioned by a wealthy Dutch merchant who was somehow involved in the event – perhaps he was the owner of a vessel that was saved from Spanish capture.

The image shows a Dutch ship in the centre, identifiable by its Dutch flag and pendants, being attacked by two Spanish ships, each flying the Burgundian ragged-cross flag of the Spanish Netherlands and with distinctive decorated sterns. The Dutch ship returns fire.

Spanish naval power during the Thirty Years War reached impressive levels. Its power base lay not in Spain itself but in Spanish-ruled Flanders, and in particular Dunkirk. Spanish power grew here because of the threat posed in the North Sea by Dutch seapower but the Spanish dominated the area between 1625-1645. At the heart of Spanish success was their ability to operate alongside privateers, as depicted here. A Dutch ship flying the Dutch flag and pendants is attacked by five privateers who fly the Burgundian cross – the flag of the Spanish Netherlands.

The artist, Jacob Gerritsz Loeff was known both for his ship portraits and battle scenes.

The Society has published a number of important articles on the Thirty Years War. A two-part article on the Thirty Years War in the Mediterranean was penned by R.C. Anderson in 1969 and in 2001 W.P. Guthrie wrote a general article ‘Naval Actions of the Thirty Years’ War.’

Maritime Art Archive

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