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The Siege of Malta: Arrival of the Turkish Fleet, 20 May 1565

Fine art

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Object ID BHC0252
Description The first of eight paintings constituting a near-contemporary record of the Siege of Malta between 18 May and 11 September 1565. The canvases bear the cipher of Charles I on the reverse indicating that they were once in his collection. The set as a whole is a version of the larger series still in place in the Council Chamber of the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta. The advance of the powerful Ottoman Turks into Eastern Europe, threatened the West. In the spring of 1565 Suleiman I, the Sultan of Turkey, decided to attack and destroy the Knights of St John at Malta, the sole survivors of the medieval crusading orders, before invading Italy and Western Europe. The ensuing four-month siege is one of the great military epics of history. The outnumbered Knights resisted the superior enemy, and the Turks eventually retreated after thousands of their troops were killed. This painting records the events of 20 May 1565. It presents an aerial view of the north-east of Malta, from St Elmo and Marsamuscetto Harbour on the left and Marsasirocco on the right. Here the Turks, identifiable by their turbans, make their main landings. In the foreground is the Turkish camp at Marsa, their main encampment throughout the siege. Between St Elmo and Marsasirocco squadrons of troops manoeuvre and engage with a party of Christian knights. Another party of knights is in action in the midst of the Turks. Beyond, the troops are scattered in groups, the largest could be Mustapha Pasha and his engineers, capturing the knight La Riviere whom they then tortured to death. In the near central foreground are a party of crossbow men, and to the left three janissaries - members of the Imperial Guard. At sea to the left, five galleys of the Christian knight, St. Auben, lie off St Elmo, while to the right are four Turkish galleys and a ship. The two Turkish forts fly the crescent flag. The Turkish troops are still landing whilst formations of other troops march up the hill and some to the right have Turkish crescents on their shields. Other figures point upwards to indicate their advance inland. See also BHC0253-0259. These pictures were in the collection of Charles I and all were engraved.
Date made Late 16th century

Artist/Maker Perez, Matteo
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 1535 mm x 2231 mm x 64 mm x 34 kg;Overall: 34 kg;Painting: 1345 mm x 2032 mm
  • The Siege of Malta: Arrival of the Turkish Fleet, 20 May 1565 (BHC0252)
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