Thomas Cavendish (1560-92), Sir Francis Drake (1540?-96) and Sir John Hawkins (1532-95)

A triple portrait of three Elizabethan explorers. On the left is John Hawkins shown slightly to right in black, wearing a hat and gold chains. Hawkins commanded several expeditions to the Spanish colonies in the Americas and traded enslaved Africans. He was treasurer and controller of the navy in 1573 and did much to ensure that the new construction for the fleet was ships of the galleon type to carry heavy ordnance as their principal means of offence. He died at sea off Porto Rico when on an expedition against the Spanish.

Drake, Hawkins’s cousin, stands in the centre, and his right arm leans against a globe to denote the adventurers. He wears a sleeveless leather doublet. From relatively humble beginnings and early experiences at sea, Drake pursued an outstandingly successful career as a privateer Drake was the second man and first Englishman to circumnavigate the world, 1577-80. In 1587 he successfully attacked the Spanish fleet in Cadiz which was being prepared for the invasion of England. He was second in command during the Armada campaign after its defeat he commanded a number of expeditions against the Spanish both in Europe and America. It was during one of these that he died off Portobello.

Cavendish is shown standing on the right. He wears a red doublet and black cloak both sewn with pearls and a gold earring in his left ear. In 1585 Cavendish went with Grenville on a colonising expedition to Virginia. In the following year he set off on an expedition of his own with three ships to circumnavigate the word. After passing through the Straits of Magellan he successfully attacked the Spanish commerce on the west coast of South America, culminating in the taking of a large and very rich treasure ship. On his way home he discovered St Helena and arrived at Plymouth just after the defeat of the Armada in 1588. An attempt to repeat this achievement ended in failure and his death at sea in 1592.

This painting is probably a copy of Daniel Myten’s painting of the same subject which was owned by Lord Lothian.

Object Details

ID: BHC2603
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Tudor and Stuart Seafarers Gallery
Creator: British School, 17th century
Date made: 17th century
Exhibition: The Atlantic: Slavery, Trade, Empire; Exploration and Cultural Encounters
People: Cavendish, Thomas; Drake, Francis Hawkins, John
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1648 mm x 1789 mm x 110 mm;Overall: 74.2 kg;Painting: 1395 mm x 1550 mm

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