On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus’ 3 ships reached the coast of the West Indies. According to Christopher Columbus's journal (Diario of Columbus), written by Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, “at two hours after midnight the land appeared, from which they were about two leagues distant. They hauled down all the sails and kept only the treo, which is the mainsail without bonnets, and jogged on and off, passing time until daylight Friday, when they reached an islet of the Lucayas, which was called Guanahani in the language of the Indians. Soon they saw naked people; and the Admiral went ashore in the armed launch, and Martín Alonso Pinzón and his brother Vicente Anes, who was captain of the Niña…”
The painting depicts this scene, although neither the ships’ hulls, nor riggings, resemble those used in late 15th-century shipbuilding. During the 19th century, historical painting was one of the most common genres amongst artists. Divided into 2 stages, the genre first saw the depiction of episodes from Spain’s modern history, while the second captured more recent historical events on canvas. Episodes relating to the discovery of America, Columbus, and the Catholic Monarchs were some of the most popular themes.
This work was painted by Antonio Brugada Vila in 1856. This Madrid-born artist trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando. He was a landscape and seascape artist, with the latter accounting for most of his work. He was Queen Isabella II's court painter and his works are featured in the National Exhibitions of Fine Art. As a friend of fellow-artists Francisco de Goya, whom he met in Bordeaux, Brugada inventoried Goya’s Quinta del Sordo estate at the request of Goya’s son.
The oil painting, one of a pair (the second was donated by the National Heritage and housed at the Royal Palace) was given to the Naval Museum by the painter on August 3, 1856. Brugada donated it in 1858.