This work depicts the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, a naval battle which took place on February 14, 1797 at Cape St. Vincent, off the Algarve coast in Portugal. Spain, allied with France, was pitted against England in the context of the French Revolutionary Wars. The painting depicts the moment when the ship Santísima Trinidad, flying under the flag of Córdoba, was attacked by the 98-gun Blenheim, the 74-gun Orion, the 74-gun Irresistible and the 74-gun Excellent. With its 130 guns, Santísima Trinidad was the largest ship of its time. The 74-gun Infante don Pelayo, under the command of Cayetano Valdés, is shown coming to its aid to the left of the picture. Its topsails, mainsail, and foresail are unfurled. To the right of the foreground, the crew of 2 boarded ships from both nations are engaged in a bloody battle; further back are ships engaged in combat and to the left is the nearby coast of Cape St. Vincent. The painting is not an accurate portrayal of these events. The battle ended in Spanish defeat and, as a consequence, Commander José de Córdova was court-martialed and demoted.
The painting is by Antonio Brugada Vila, a Madrid-born artist who trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando. He was a court painter to Isabella II of Spain and a personal friend of Francisco de Goya.