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Lot 46Nicholas Pocock
English, 1740-1821
The Battle of Cape Santa Maria: The Explosion of the Spanish Frigate Mercedes
Oil on canvas
36 1/2 x 55 inches (92.7 x 139.7 cm)
Gomshall Gallery, Gomshall, Surrey
Purchased from the above gallery circa 1972
Collection of Ridley T. Nichol, Atlanta, Georgia
The Battle of Cape Santa Maria was an action taken by the British Royal Navy on October 5, 1804 against the Spanish Atlantic silver fleet. Having learned of a secret alliance between France and Spain to wage war on Great Britain, and believing that war would be declared soon after the arrival of the treasure ships in Cadiz, the British government sent a squadron under the command of Commodore Graham Moore to intercept and detain them. Moore, commanding the 44-gun frigate H.M.S. Indefatigable, and accompanied by H.M.S. Lively, H.M.S. Medusa and H.M.S. Amphion, approached the Spanish flotilla off Cape Santa Maria on the coast of Portugal. This painting depicts the first exchange of fire, during which a single shot from the Amphion struck the magazine of the Spanish frigate Mercedes, exploding it and sinking the ship. Within half an hour the Spanish frigates Medusa and Santa Clara had surrendered, and the third Spanish frigate, the Fama, was captured soon after. The three surviving ships were escorted to Britain and their cargoes confiscated.
Spain declared war on the United Kingdom two months later, a conflict that ended with Spain's sustaining a devastating defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar the following year in October of 1805. The Battle of Cape Santa Maria effectively stopped Spain's transport of gold and silver from the New World and thus put an end to Spain as a world power.
The wreck of the destroyed Mercedes was discovered in 2007 and partially salvaged. After a lengthy legal dispute, the ship's cargo was awarded to Spain in 2012.

C Collection of the Estate of Ridley T. Nichol, Atlanta, Georgia

Sold for $44,100
Estimate $50,000-70,000

Glue relined. Dense old varnish layer; frame rubbing with corresponding areas of restoraton around the edges. Some lines and contours or the ships reinforced. The dark areas in the water reinforced. Scattered areas of restoration in the sky.

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