|J. Houbraken Sculp. Amst. [c. 1740]
|Image 342 x 212 mm, Sheet 356 x 215 mm
A portrait of Sir Francis Drake, shown bust-length, wearing a lace collar and gorget in an ornate oval frame. He is surrounded by objects of naval conquest and exploration, including a trident, a mast, cannons, an anchor, and a crown. A banner across the bottom of the frame is emblazoned with his name, whilst below this, a sea battle is portrayed in an ovoid frame. It is most probably that of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588.
This portrait of Drake is from Thomas Birch's The Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain. The portraits featured in the series, which were engraved by Jacob Houbraken and George Vertue, were originally issued from 1737 onwards in portfolios of four portraits. Between 1743 and 1752, the series was published by John and Paul Knapton in London in the form of Birch's The Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, and contained biographies alongside the portraits. The number of plates included varied from edition to edition. Although the majority contained 108 plates, some editions contained as many as 120. Houbraken was responsible for producing a large proportion of the portraits, with Vertue only engraving around seven. The ornamental surroundings featured on the plates were engraved prior to the portraits, and were done so by Hubert-François Gravelot.
Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 - 27th January 1596) was an English naval commander, explorer, privateer, politician, and Elizabethan courtier. Drake's two greatest maritime achievements were his circumnavigation of the globe from 1577 to 1580, and his various actions against the Spanish Armada, while serving as vice admiral of the English fleet. His circumnavigation was the second successful attempt in history, after Magellan and Elcano, and the first to be completed by a single captain. Drake was an implacable and constant enemy of the Spaniards, preying upon the Spanish treasure fleets, and ushering in the first great era of piracy and privateering in the West Indies. The King of Spain, Philip II offered a reward for Drake's life of 20,000 ducats, but it was dysentery, rather than the Spanish, that eventually took his life, while he was anchored off the coast of Panama.
Jacob, or Jacobus, Houbraken (1698-1780) was a Dutch portrait engraver, and dealer and collector of Rembrandt's etchings. Born in Dordrecht, he was the son of the artist Arnold Houbraken. In 1707 he moved to Amsterdam, where he assisted his father on a book of the lives of the Dutch Golden Age artists, entitled De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718-1721). Between 1743 and 1752, Houbraken worked with George Vertue on Thomas Birch's Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain. He also engraved the portraits for Jan van Gool's Nieuwe schouburg der Nederlantsche kunstschilders (1750-51). Between 1752 and 1759, he worked on Jan Wagenaar's Vaderlandsche historie, which was published by Isaac Tirion.
O'Donoghue 20, Ver Huell 24
Condition: Strong, dark impression. Trimmed within platemark, with small loss to inscription.