Auction 165, Lot 335

Rare View of Battle of Portobelo

"The Taking of Porto Bello by Vice Admiral Vernon on the 22d of Nov. 1739 with Six Men of War Only", Bowles, Thomas

Subject: Portobelo, Panama

Period: 1743 (dated)


Color: Hand Color

13.9 x 10.4 inches
35.3 x 26.4 cm

This dramatic engraving depicts the Battle of Porto Bello (or Portobelo), a conflict between Britain and Spain during the War of Jenkins' Ear, part of the War of the Austrian Succession. Portobelo was a strategic Spanish transfer point for gold and silver coming from South America. After taking part in a failed attempt to capture a fully laden Spanish treasure ship departing from Portobelo in 1727, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon made claims that he could capture the historic port with just six ships. In November 1739, Vernon organized a squadron of six ships to capture the settlement. Due to strong easterly winds, Vernon was initially forced to focus his efforts on the harbor fort. The British caught the Spanish off guard and quickly gained control, forcing the Spanish to surrender the fort. Subsequently, Vernon shifted his efforts to the town of Portobelo, resulting in Spanish surrender of the port. The capture of Portobelo was seen as a big triumph in Britain and America, and the names Portobelo and Vernon were used in commemoration (including Portobelo Road in London, the Portobelo district of Edinburgh, and Mount Vernon in Virginia, the home of George Washington). The British occupied Portobelo for only three weeks, destroying the fortress and key buildings before withdrawing.

This view, published on October 28, 1743, depicts the storming of Iron Castle Fort located at the entrance to the bay. The British galleons can be seen firing on the fort while British soldiers row small boats to shore. This view was engraved by Remi Parr after a painting by Peter Monamy. The original painting by Monamy was made shortly after news reached London in March 1740, and was hung in Vauxhall Gardens, where it was viewed by Frederick, Prince of Wales (son of George II), and his wife, Augusta, on May 19, 1740. This engraving is very rare, with only one dealer listing in the last 30 years and a few examples found in institutions.

References: Kapp (MCC-73) #66.

Condition: B+

Issued folding on sturdy paper with a fleur-de-lis watermark, light soiling, and an archivally repaired fold separation that enters 1" into image at bottom left. A small printed description of the print has been pasted on verso.

Estimate: $600 - $800

Sold for: $2,000

Closed on 11/15/2017