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Battle of Gibraltar, 25 April 1607
Willaerts, Adam
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Willaerts, Adam

London, 1577 - Utrecht, 1664

See author's file

Battle of Gibraltar, 25 April 1607

Ca. 1617. Oil on canvas.
On display elsewhere

The arrangement of the composition into parallel planes of colour and the overall stillness of the scene are consonant with Flemish Mannerist landscape painting, which employed a structure of parallel bands of colour. Willaerts continued to use this contrived scheme until well into the seventeenth century, even after it became outdated as a result of the new naturalist trend that swept through Dutch painting from the 1620s onwards. Nonetheless, in this case the two large columns of smoke in the middle ground give the scene a more naturalistic spatial arrangement.

The handling of the water`s surface using parallel bands of small foam-crested waves is a distinctive formal device in the work of Willaerts, who first used it in Defeat of the Spaniards at Gibraltar by a Dutch Fleet, 25 April 1607, dated 1617. The scene may have been used as a compositional model by Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen for Sea Battle at Gibraltar on 25 April 1607, signed and dated 1622 (The Hague, Galerie Hoogsteder), although in this case the handling of the atmosphere already evidences the new naturalism in vogue in Dutch painting from the early 1620s. The scene depicts the attack launched by the ships of the United Provinces on the Spanish fleet moored in the Bay of Gibraltar on 25 April 1607 during the Eighty Years` War. The Dutch fleet consisted of twenty-six warships and four cargo boats. The Spanish fleet docked in the bay was equipped with twenty-one ships. In many respects, Willaerts borrows from the contemporary sources that documented the battle in detail, as it was the Dutch armada`s first victory over its Spanish rival in the Eighty Years` War.

The vessel on the left bearing the royal coat of arms is Nuestra Señora de la Vega, the ship of the Spanish vice-admiral, which is surrounded by the Dutch ships commanded by Adriaen Roest, Symon Jansen and Cornelis Madder. In the centre, further into the background, the San Agustín, the flagship of the Spanish fleet captained by Juan Alvarez de Avila, battles against the Dutch flagship Aeolus captained by Jacob van Heemskerk, while the Tijger, commanded by Lambert Mooy Hendrick, prepares to board it on the stern side. Approaching the tower on the right is the De Roode Leeuw, captained by Vice-admiral Laurens Jacobsz. Alteras, which was to board the Nuestra Señora de laVega but failed in the attempt. The ship on the right, close to the coastline, with the fleur-de-lis on its standard, is possibly one of the French vessels held hostage by the Spaniards in the Bay of Gibraltar. The Dutch admiral Van Heemskerk died in the first attack and all the Spanish ships were destroyed and their crews killed (Posada Kubissa, T.: Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, 2009, p. 318).


Technical data

Inventory number
Willaerts, Adam
Battle of Gibraltar, 25 April 1607
Ca. 1617
Height: 78.3 cm; Width: 121.5 cm
Acquisition, 2000

Bibliography +

van Meteren, E., Historie der Neder-landscher ende haerder Naburen oorlogen ende geschiedenissen, totden iare M.VIcXII, 1614.

Adquisiciones del año 2000, Museo del Prado: Memoria de Actividades, Madrid, 2000, pp. 44.

Old Masters Pictures 7 de julio 2000. Lote 6323, SOTHEBY'S LONDON, 2000.

Obras adscritas al Museo Nacional del Prado en el año 2000, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XIX, 2001, pp. 204.

Luna,J.J., Guerra y pintura en las colecciones del Museo del Prado. s.XVI a Goya, Arte en tiempos de guerra Jornadas de Arte (14º.2008.Madrid), Madrid, 2009.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 156-157.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, El paisaje nórdico en el Prado: Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, pp. 119,163 / 42.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Rubens, Brueghel, Lorrain. A Paisagem Nórdica do Museu do Prado, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga - INCM - Museo Nacional del Prado, Lisboa, 2013, pp. 117,159 n.42.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2571.

Inscriptions +

Signed. Front, lower left area

Exhibitions +

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
03.12.2013 - 30.03.2014

Dutch Painters at the Prado
03.12.2009 - 11.04.2010

Location +

Madrid - Museo Naval (Deposit)

Displayed objects +



Transport, Maritime / Transport, River

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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