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The Moonlight Battle off Cape St Vincent, 16 January 1780

Fine art

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Object ID BHC0427
Description Sir George Rodney was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Leeward Islands in the autumn of 1779, during the War of American Independence, and on his way out he convoyed supplies to the beleaguered garrison at Gibraltar, and to Minorca. On 16 January 1780, off Cape St Vincent, he sighted a Spanish squadron of eleven ships of the line and two frigates under Admiral de Langara. These formed a line of battle as they were heading for their home port of Cadiz, a hundred miles to the south. Rodney ordered a general chase and just after 4.00 p.m. the action began. At 4.40 p.m. the 'San Domingo', 70 guns, blew up and all hands were lost. Darkness fell soon afterwards and the chase continued through the night until 2.00 p.m., when the headmost of the Spanish squadron surrendered. Four ships of the line together with the two frigates escape, but six were taken including the flagship. This painting is an interpretation of the moment when the 'San Domingo' blew up. In the foreground, right of centre, is Rodney's flagship the 'Sandwich', 90 guns, in port-quarter view, flying the white ensign and Rodney flag as Admiral of the White at the main, with a red flag at the fore. Ahead of her is a large explosion with some of the 'San Domingo's' spars in mid-air. In the right background two British and two Spanish ships, in port-quarter view, are in a running fight. In the left foreground is a British two-decker, in starboard-quarter view, and in the background beyond are more ships in a running fight. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1780.
Date made 1780

Artist/Maker Holman, Francis
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1065 x 1665 mm
  • The Moonlight Battle off Cape St Vincent, 16 January 1780 (BHC0427)
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