Delft Plate, "The Taking of Porto Bello"

Delft Plate,  "The Taking of Porto Bello"
View 2: Delft Plate,  "The Taking of Porto Bello"
View 3: Delft Plate,  "The Taking of Porto Bello"
View 4: Delft Plate,  "The Taking of Porto Bello"

Blue and white Delftware plate painted with "The Taking of Porto Bello", a battle between England and Spain in 1739.

CONDITION: Glaze cracks and rim chips throughout. 3" crack (7:00 front view; 6:00 back view).

England, probably Lambeth c. 1745
7 ¾" diameter


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This small Delftware plate depicts the Battle of Porto Bello, a city in present day Panama, led by British Vice Admiral Edward "Old Grog" Vernon during the War of Jenkins' Ear in November of 1739. The war was fought between Britain and Spain over control of trading networks in the Caribbean, and derives its unusual name from a prior incident in which the captain of a merchant ship, Robert Jenkins, had his ear severed by a sailor in the Spanish coast guard. The war, from 1739 to 1748, was a defeat for the British Empire, yet the battle was one of the few British victories. Under the command of Vernon, the British navy was able to take the port and its nearby town within 24 hours. The victory was cause for widespread celebration in Britain, and Vernon was commemorated across the Empire. The fabled Portobello Road in London, known to antiques enthusiasts worldwide, was renamed in honor of this battle.

The decoration is based on a popular engraving of 1743, "The Taking of Porto Bello by Vice Admiral Vernon on the 22nd of Novr. 1739 with Six Men-of-War Only". (See photos.)

Edward Vernon (1684-1757) enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1700, and climbed the ranks, ultimately reaching the title of Vice Admiral. His victory at Porto Bello resulted in ballads written in his honor, conferences with the high royalty of England, and his election as a member of Parliament. His popularity spread across England and into its colonies in America. George Washington's half-brother Lawrence Washington, who served on Vernon's flagship, named his estate Mount Vernon in honor of his commander.

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