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1628 Eroberung Der Reiche Silber – Vloot Inde Bay oder Haven Matancae.

1628 Eroberung Der Reiche Silber – Vloot Inde Bay oder Haven Matancae.

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By: Abraham Hogenberg

Date: 1628 (published) Amsterdam    

Dimensions: 8.75 x 13.25 inches (22.25 x 33.5 cm)

This remarkable engraving depicts the Capture of the Spanish Silver Fleet Near Havana, in 1628 by the Dutch West India Company, under the command of Piet Heyn, son of a well-known Dutch maritime commander. The outcome of the maritime battle pictured here resulted in Piet Heyn becoming a well-known Dutch hero. The scene has been depicted by many cartographers and artists since the time it took place.

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. Hogenberg beautifully depicts one of the rare incidents when a treasure fleet floundered, intercepted by the Dutch.

The Disorganized Spanish Fleet

At the time of the incident the treasure fleets were badly organized. The one depicted here was commanded by a corrupt Spanish official who had no 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.

Dutch Strategy and Engagement

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.

The Battle and its Outcome

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.  The Dutch secured approximately ninety tons of gold and silver.

Depiction and Significance of the Map

The battle is beautifully depicted, with each ship numbered and identified by name. A small inset map of the area in the lower left depicts the precise location of the battle. The inset is enclosed within a strap work cartouche above which are pictured the spoils of the battle, including coins, jewelry and other sundry objects. The map is an important document of its day, and one identical to this one is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The map is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of the era.

Condition: This map is in A condition offering a sharp print impression on clean paper. Right margin is narrow but still allows room for framing.

Inventory #12670                                                                                          

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