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Afbeeldinge in Wat Manier de Silver Vloot Vanden Generael Pieter Heyn

1651 Afbeeldinge in Wat Manier de Silver Vloot Vanden Generael Pieter Pietersen Heyn Veroovert is Anno 1628

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By: Isaac Commelin

Date: 1651 (circa) Amsterdam

Dimensions: 10.76 x 14.25 inches (27.33 x 36.2 cm)

There are numerous renderings of this famous maritime battle in which the Dutch defeated one of the Spanish so-called silver fleets in 1628. This remarkable work includes a portrait of the commander of the fleet, Admiral Piet Heyn, who became a Dutch hero as a result of this important victory.

Context of the Conflict

By 1628, the Dutch and Spanish had been at war for most of the past sixty years. While undertaken as a Dutch war for independence, the war had spread beyond Europe and into the Atlantic. For two and a half centuries Spain had funded its government in all its undertakings with treasure mined or looted in South America and taken back across the Atlantic in fleets which sailed virtuously unmolested.

By the time of the incident the treasure fleets had become badly organized. The Spanish perceived little threat from anyone on the high seas and had become lax in their planning. The fleet depicted here was commanded by a corrupt Spanish official who had no prior maritime experience, much less in naval warfare. He had allowed the ships of the fleet to be so overloaded with both cargo and passengers that the ships’ guns were inaccessible, and he chose to seek refuge fifty miles to the east of Havana, in Matanzas Bay.

The Dutch Strategy, Engagement, and Outcome

The Dutch had sent a fleet of thirty ships under the command of Piet Heyn, with the intent of capturing one of the treasure-laden fleets headed for Spain. Though the Spanish were aware of Dutch aspirations, when Commander Heyn sent part of his fleet back to Europe, the Spanish commander mistakenly believed that all the Dutch fleet’s ships had departed. Believing they were safe, the treasure-laden Spanish fleet set sail, with four galleons and eleven merchantmen. Heyn had kept the ships left behind close to Havana, and when the Spanish approached, he was ready for them.

When the Spanish saw the Dutch fleet, they tried to evade engaging by fleeing to the Bay, where they met with one of the greatest disasters in the history of the Spanish Empire. All eleven of the treasure ships were either taken or sunk, and the entire treasure was lost, and nearly a third of the Spanish ships doing trade in the Atlantic went down in the Bay of Matanzas.  The Dutch secured approximately ninety tons of gold and silver along with a substantial amount of other goods of trade. This was the Greatest Dutch victory in the Caribbean during the Dutch War of Independence.

Condition: Print is in B condition with a tear in the top left that extends into the title. The print offers a dark impression and margins are narrow on either side.

Inventory #12678

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