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The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar

The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar (also called The Sortie made by the Garrison of Gibraltar in the Morning of the 27 of November 1781[1]) is a 1789 oil-on-canvas painting by American artist John Trumbull. The painting shows a key point in Gibraltar's history when the Great Siege of Gibraltar was undertaken by the Spanish against the British at Gibraltar in November 1781.[2] The Spanish officer Don Jose de Barboza is being given respect as he lies dying. Although left behind by his own retreating troops, he still unsuccessfully attacked the British troops with chivalry.[2]

The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar
The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar.jpg
ArtistJohn Trumbull
Dimensions180.3 cm × 271.8 cm (71 in × 107 in)
LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York, USA



The painting is based on a historic battle that took place in Gibraltar on November 27, 1781.[3] The Great Siege of Gibraltar was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the War of American Independence.


The dying Spanish officer Don Jose de Barboza.

The painting depicts the events of the night of November 26, 1781, when British troops made a sudden attack (sortie) against the enemy batteries.[4] The death of the Spanish officer Don Jose de Barboza is the focal point of the painting.[4] He fell mortally wounded and died near his post refusing assistance after having been abandoned by his troops.[4] He is portrayed as rejecting the aid of General George Elliott, commander of the British troops.[4]

General George Elliott

In 1782, the siege was lifted, and Trumbull's friend Antonio de Poggi, an artist and dealer based in London who had been in the besieged garrison, told him of an earlier incident, which had occurred in November 1781.[5] This had all the ingredients he sought:

...the Heroism of the vanquished, the Humanity of the Victors - the darkness of night illuminating an extensive conflagration - the Hurry and Tumult of the troops busy in the work of destruction - the quiet & calm of the Officers, the guiding Spirits of the Scene.[5]

Furthermore, Trumbull had been engaged in a series of paintings based on the American Revolution, which had been criticized in London. He saw the subject of the Siege as one which he could demonstrate that he supported British heroism as well:

...and as I knew by painting them [his American history paintings], I had given offense to some extra-patriotic people in England, I now resolved to exert my utmost talent upon the Gibraltar, to show that noble and generous actions, by whomsoever performed, were the objects to whose celebration I meant to devote myself.[6]

In the 1788 version at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Don Jose de Barboza is in a slightly different pose, looking to the left, instead of down.

Trumbull labored on the composition, over many sketches and three large completed canvases.[5] As the project progressed, Trumbull's ambitions for it to be his big breakthrough to major patronage grew too.[5] He refused large offers for the picture, preferring to exhibit it privately for admission fees.[5]

Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford had called the painting:

the finest picture [he] had ever seen painted on the northern side of the Alps.[5]

The painting is depicted on the back of the 2010 Gibraltar 10-pound note.[7]

The people highlighted in this composition are the dying José de Barboza and to his right and from left to right: Ensign A?. Mackenzie (in Highland dress), Governor Eliott, Lt G.F. Koehler, Lt.Col J. Hardy, Brig.Gen C. Ross, Capt A. Witham, Capt Roger Curtis, Lieutent Thomas Trigge, Lt Colonel Hugo.[8]


  1. ^ "The Sortie made by the Garrison of Gibraltar in the Morning of the 27 of November 1781". Natural Maritime Museum. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
  2. ^ a b "The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, 1789". Acquired Tastes-Trumbull. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
  3. ^ Bond, pages. 28-29
  4. ^ a b c d "John Trumbull - The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar 1789". Art Museum Images from Cartography Associates. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar in the Morning of the 27 of November 1781". AntiQbook. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
  6. ^ Trumbull, John (1970). The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull. Da Capo Press. p. 149.
  7. ^ "P-36".
  8. ^ Courcelle, René Chartrand. Illustrated by Patrice (2006). Gibraltar 1779 - 1783 : the great siege ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Oxford: Osprey. p. 52. ISBN 1841769770.


  • Bond, Peter (2003). "Gibraltar's Finest Hour The Great Siege 1779-1783". 300 Years of British Gibraltar 1704-2004 (1st ed.). Gibraltar: Peter-Tan Publishing Co. pp. 28–29.