Catalog Archive
Auction 191, Lot 368

Rare Chart of the Battle of Portobello

"Plan de la Ville Rade et Forts de Porto Bello... / Plan van de Stad Haven en Forten van Porto Bello...", Mortier, Pierre

Subject: Portobelo, Panama

Period: 1740 (dated)


Color: Hand Color

22.4 x 16.3 inches
56.9 x 41.4 cm
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This rare chart 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 Iron Castle). 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 chart locates Iron Castle on the point, engulfed in smoke, with the six British warships firing upon the fort. The town of Portobelo is presented in a simple block pattern, with the fortified Castle de Gloria adjacent to the town, and Spanish ships guarding the nearby waters. The surrounding countryside is filled with hills and vegetation. A compass rose in the center of the bay orients north to the bottom right of the chart, and the bay is filled with notations of depth soundings, rocks and shoals. A lettered key identifies the ships and key locations throughout the chart. The map was originally drawn by Lieutenant Philip Durell and brought back to England by Captain James Rentone. This French/German edition was published by Pierre Mortier.


Condition: A

A fine impression on watermarked paper with attractive color and wide margins. There are a couple of minute worm holes only visible when held to light and some tiny tears along the edges of the sheet.

Estimate: $1,600 - $1,900

Sold for: $900

Closed on 2/8/2023