"Perspectivische Vorstellung des Hafens, Castels u. der Stadt Porto Belo...", Homann Heirs
Subject: Portobelo, Panama
Period: 1743 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
11 x 9 inches
27.9 x 22.9 cm
This uncommon view 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 (here labeled Irou Castell). 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 bird's-eye perspective view of the battle is a close copy of a view published by Thomas and John Bowles on April 21, 1740. The view locates five of Vernon's ships (Norwich, Burford, Strafford, Worcester and Hampton Court) engaged in battle with the Iron Castle on the point, with numerous Spanish soldiers on land that appear to be retreating. The sixth ship, Princess Louisa, appears at bottom left, just outside of the bay. The town of Portobelo appears at top right, with the fortified Gloria Castle adjacent to the town, firing its cannons upon the encroaching British ships. Spanish ships guard the city. A lettered key identifies the ships and key locations. Published by the Homann Heirs circa 1743.
References: Kapp (MCC-73) #67.
Excellent impression with full contemporary color and minor toning. Remargined at top with period-correct paper.