The Spanish Armada off the Coast of England
Unknown, monogrammist VHE
- Private Vendor
This vivid depiction of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the British navy in 1588 is an extremely rare survival of such a picture from the two decades immediately following the event.
The miniature painting, believed to be by a Flemish artist (it is signed with the unverified artist’s monogram ‘VHE’), shows the combined narratives of several key episodes associated with the Armada campaign: the fight between the English and the Spanish fleet; the launch of the English fireships; the battle off Gravelines and the involvement of Dutch ships in harrying the Armada. It also shows troops assembled on the southern coast of England. Of only two surviving miniature pictures of the event, it is unique in showing Elizabeth I’s famous visit to Tilbury before the battle.
The painting includes other details, particularly relating to costume and military strategy, that provide rich material for further investigation. Following the defeat of the Armada, the Spanish ships fled along the Irish coast and into stormy conditions to the north and west of the island. More than 25 of the 130 ships were wrecked, and around 5,000 Spanish sailors perished or were captured and executed by the British.
Significant archaeological finds from the wrecked Spanish ships are now held in a dedicated Armada Gallery at the Ulster Museum. After a successful campaign to save it for the nation, this painting now joins them there.
With Anthony Margiotta, a Brighton antiques dealer, 1972; Loaned to the Rijksmuseum 1975-1995 via J. Dillen of Heemstede, Netherlands; Owned by a Mr Walsh and Adrian Margiotta, son of Anthony, in 1995; Sold by Adrian Margiotta at Bonhams 2003 to the deale