The Capture of the 'Nuestra Señora de Cavadonga' by the 'Centurion', 20 June 1743

At the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740, Commodore George Anson was sent to the Pacific with a squadron of six ships, his own being the 'Centurion', 60 guns. His instructions were to damage Spanish interests in the Pacific at a time when Spain and England were competing for maritime supremacy. Anson sailed via Cape Horn but by the time he reached Macao, China, in November 1742, 'Centurion', was the only surviving ship in his squadron, the others having been separated or wrecked. After wintering there he set off on 29 April 1743 in search of the immensely valuable Manila galleon 'Nuestra Señora de Covadonga', which he sighted while cruising through Philippine waters in June 1743. He immediately attacked the 'Covadonga', which was heavily laden with cargo from Acapulco. During an attempt to escape the Spaniards threw part of this into the ocean, to no avail, and Anson was able to seize the 'Covadonga's treasure of Spanish dollars, silver and other valuable goods. Its value was immense and not only ensured the financial success of the voyage but made Anson wealthy for life.

Both ships are shown in starboard-quarter view, on the starboard tack, in the right-hand side of the picture. The 'Centurion', flying the red ensign, is shown to port of the 'Covadonga', with her massive hull and carved stern. In the left background is the coast of the Island of Samar. A heavy pall of gunsmoke is being carried upwards and to the left of the ships.

Scott belonged to the first generation of British marine painters, who worked in the tradition of the van de Veldes and the other Dutch artists who came to practice in London from the 1670s. His reputation chiefly rests on his topographical views of London but he was a very good marine painter, who accepted commissions like this and whose artistic and social skills eclipsed - at least in business terms - those of his slightly earlier contemporary Peter Monamy. He was notably averse to travelling by sea himself but produced many small drawings and watercolours to be incorporated later as details into his oils, such as men rowing and unloading boats, and often drew his ships from models.

Object Details

ID: BHC0360
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Scott, Samuel
Events: War of the Austrian Succession: 1740-1748
Vessels: Centurion (1732); Nuestra Senora de Cavadonga (1731)
Date made: circa 1745; circa 1743
People: Royal Navy
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1289 mm x 1769 mm x 94 mm;Overall: 54.2 kg;Painting: 1029 mm x 1511 mm

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