Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich

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Vasco da Gama, c.1460-1524

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich
ExhibitionsTraders: The East India Company and Asia
User collections The maritime world of Asia by NMMExhibitions
Gallery locationTraders Gallery (Floor plans)
PeopleDepiction: Gama, Vasco da
Provenance: Edward Hawke Locker
Artist: Fonseca, António Manuel da

Object details:

Object ID BHC2702
Description A half-length portrait to right, with the sitter wearing a breastplate, red-lined fur coat, gold-laced and slashed. He has a blue and gold turban, and around his neck the cross of Commander of the Portuguese Military Order of Christ. This order was awarded to Vasco da Gama by King Emmanuel I as a sign of promotion, in 1507, following his second return from India. The portrait, given to Greenwich Hospital by Edward Hawke Locker, is thought to be a copy of a similar work by the Portuguese artist, and in his possession, although the Painted Hall catalogue (1922) states that it was from an original in possession of the Countess of Bahia in Lisbon. Locker was Civil Secretary and a Commissioner of Greenwich Hospital, and the founder of the Naval Gallery in its Painted Hall (1824-1936), although the idea was that of his father, Lieutentant-Governor William Locker in the 1790s. This is one of several portraits of non-British explorers and maritime heroes that he obtained before his retirement in 1844, to complement the Gallery's portraits celebrating British naval endeavour. In 1497 Vasco da Gama commanded an expedition, equipped by the Portuguese government, that rounded the Cape of Good Hope for the first time and reached Calicut in India. His mission was to break up the Muslim, Venetian and Genoese monopolies that controlled the lucrative trade route between Europe and Asia via the eastern Mediterranean. His voyage launched the all-water route from Europe to Asia and he sailed again in 1502 with the title of Admiral of India, and a third time as Viceroy in 1524 but died soon afterwards. Whatever its immediate or ultimate source, this is an idealized portrait, painted 300 years after the event. It is signed by da Fonseca, a respected history and portrait painter who was appointed painter to the King of Portugal in 1830 and professor at the Fine Art Academy in Lisbon in 1852.
Date made 1838

Artist/Maker Fonseca, António Manuel da
Fonseca, António Manuel da
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1219 x 965 mm; Frame: 1378 x 1154 x 80 mm
  • Vasco da Gama, c.1460-1524 (BHC2702)
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