Defeat of the Spanish Armada

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Defeat of the Spanish Armada, by Philippe James de Loutherbourg in 1796, depicts its namesake, the devastating defeat of the Spanish Armada on July 29, 1588.

In the late 1580s, England’s support of the Protestant Dutch in the Spanish Netherlands led King Phillip II to prepare an invasion on the former country’s land. After a year of preparations, the Spanish Armada set sail on May 19, 1588 and consisted of 130 ships and 20,000 soldiers, though slower and less armed than the English. After delays due to stormy weather, England was more than ready for Spain’s arrival, equipped with long range guns. On July 29th, the English sent eight burning ships to the harbor where the Spanish were anchored, forcing the latter to retreat. Of the original navy, only about 65 ships made it back to Spain on October and 15,000 men died, an overwhelming loss.

In Defeat of the Spanish Armada, de Loutherbourg shows Spain’s chaos and confusion through the figures’ facial and physical expressions, as well as the vivid fire and the black, smoky skies. Men are seen falling out of ships, using weapons against each other, and rushing to retreat, both disorderly and embarrassing. On the other end, a sense of order and victory is obvious on England’s side, through their intact vessels and the clear blue skies. At the end of Spain’s attack, England was a force in the world to be reckoned with and Spain was left financially depleted. De Louthourbourg represents both of these countries’ outcomes brilliantly in this piece.

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