The American Fleet Defeating Rais Hamdu off Cape Gata

Not on view

The Arabic inscription at bottom of the painting identifies the scene as the so-called Battle of Cape Gata– a devastating blow to the Barbary forces by the American navy in the year 1815. At the center, the Algerian ship Mashudu is identifiable by its bright red flag at the stern. Nine American ships have surrounded the Algerian vessel as billowing clouds of smoke indicate the exchange of cannon fire.

When the smoke cleared, among the dead was Algerian corsair Rais Hamidu (1773–1815) a relentless pirate who was the focus of the American attack. Hamidu was targeted for his role in leading raids on American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean, and demanding ransom for their crews.

This is the first work in The Met’s collection to illustrate United States naval history by a North African artist. A related version is in the collection of the New York Historical Society.

The American Fleet Defeating Rais Hamdu off Cape Gata, Ink and watercolor on paper

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