San Fernando (Cádiz)
It was the summer of 1747, the ship «Glorious» He was returning to Cádiz. He had previously arrived in Ferrol, to unload the four million pesos strong that he brought from America and to be repaired from two battles he had fought with English ships in the Azores and near the Galician coast. But when passing by the Portuguese coast, full of British privateers, in San Vicente he encountered several of them. Still clearly inferior, he fought heroically by sinking an English ship. Until, without ammunition and with a completely perforated hull, its commander, the captain of the ship Mesía de la Cerda, decided to lower the flag.
«The last combat of the Glorious» is the box of Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau that embodies this heroic defeat and that has arrived this Wednesday at Naval Museum of San Fernando coming from Naval Museum of Madrid. “Before its unfortunate end, it had to arrive in Cádiz and today, finally, arrive at port”, Colonel Miguel Antonio Flores, delegate of Culture and Naval History in San Fernando and curator of the museum, said during the presentation of the work.
To receive the “Glorious” to his new home, the Admiral of the Fleet (ALFLOT), Antonio Martorell; the Commander General of the Marine Infantry (COMGEIM), Antonio Planells, the mayor of San Fernando, Patricia Cavada or the Defense delegate in Cádiz, Colonel Joaquín González, as well as other civil and military authorities of the Bay of Cádiz. A “special” reception, as the curator of the San Fernando Naval Museum has pointed out, marked by anti-Covid measures, but loaded with solemnity.
Although it is true that its author, Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau, was not present at the event, it was María Fidalgo Casares, a member of the Andalusian Academy of History and adviser, biographer and author of the painter’s books, who has assured that the artist is “very happy” that his painting ends at San Fernando “because he is closely linked to Cádiz, right now he is painting the landing of Algeciras and is an academic at the Royal Academy of San Romualdo”, located in this Cadiz town. Fidalgo has also revealed that the painter will go to San Fernando at the end of this week to attend a meeting of the Royal Academy and will take the opportunity to go see the painting in its new location.
The person in charge of presenting this table has been Admiral Juan Rodríguez Garat, director of the Institute of Naval History and Culture, who has assured that with the arrival of “The Last Combat of the Glorious” to the Naval Museum of San Fernando the Navy “wants to pay a debt” that it has with the Bay of Cádiz since it was decided to remove from this museum the painting ‘My flag’, also by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau, to take it to the Naval Museum in Madrid. “I have not been asked for an explanation of why this painting that was here has passed to the Naval Museum in Madrid, probably because in San Fernando we are better known and the Navy is more trusted by the population,” said the admiral.
However, he has given those explanations. “When the current Admiral Chief of Staff of the Navy takes possession of his destiny, one of his lines of action is to enhance history to create team pride in the Navy,” said Admiral Garat. Which has underlined that the story that has been told in recent years in Spain “comes from abroad and tends to present the Navy as something sad, an institution with more failures than successes.” For this reason, when the remodeling of the Naval Museum of Madrid began, the admiral has narrated, he received two guidelines: balancing “the discourse of the museum, the collections that were out of balance” and “to make the museum a common place for all the bodies and scales of the Navy.” And in the Naval Museum of Madrid “there was no representation of the Marine Corps or the scale of troops and sailors.” For this reason, Admiral Garat, who was Admiral of the Fleet and was stationed in Cádiz, has admitted that his first order in the capital was to transfer “My flag” there, which represents the fierce defense carried out by the grenadier Martín Álvarez of the banner of the ship «San Nicolás de Bari».
In addition, at the time this decision was made, the director of the Institute of Naval History and Culture said, there was another, “that the paintings that represented an era were relevant” to it. Thus, “analyzing the time to which it belongs” “The Last Combat of the Glorious’, they realized that the only works they had were those corresponding to” three honorable defeats plus that of the “Glorious”. However, the 18th century was a time “in which the Navy had the same victories as defeats.” “And that is why, not because of its artistic merits, which are many, that was why we decided to withdraw it from the Naval Museum in Madrid,” the admiral assured. That, in addition, he has affirmed that the Navy has a “special interest” in this work being shown in Seville on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Torre del Oro.
“Cádiz is the cradle of the 18th century Navy”Admiral Garat has affirmed, while he has told that the Admiral Chief of Staff of the Navy told him: “It would be nice if the” Glorious “reached where he had planned to go, to Cádiz. The history of this ship, said the admiral, “is emotional and the Navy is proud of it” and, as proof, has highlighted that the commander of the Glorios, Mesía de la Cerda, rose to become lieutenant general and viceroy.
In this way, with the change of cadres, “the Institute of Naval History and Culture is sure that Madrid and San Fernando win.” In fact, he hopes “that this painting will attract many visitors” and that, when they go to the Naval Museum of San Fernando, they will discover all the historical pieces that it houses.
“The Last Combat of the Glorious” already occupies its place in the Naval Museum of San Fernando, a privileged place in the first room. In the words of María Fidalgo, this work is «One of the most important of all Spanish painting, since Ferrer-Dalmau is the greatest military history painter of all time. A great advertising claim for this Museum because it is a work of the first magnitude and also atypical because Ferrer-Dalmau does not usually paint Marinas. It is a unique work within Spanish painting ».
A work that arrives shrouded in controversy, since Admiral Rodríguez Garat and Arturo Pérez-Reverte Missives were exchanged in this regard after the writer’s protest over the removal of the painting from the Madrid gallery. “Everyone does not like decisions and there has been a certain controversy on social networks,” said the admiral in this regard. «I have been asked for explanations, it has been difficult for them to reach the public because I don’t have a media empire, I only have a mobile phoneBut in the end a letter that I wrote openly has been published on the networks and I think that everyone has read it, that expresses my position. You don’t necessarily have to convince others. All opinions are respectable. But what I wanted to express when writing the letter is that “The Naval Museum does not falsify history”.
Oblivious to controversy, the history of the Naval Museums is there, so that citizens can enjoy it, because, as the admiral has pointed out, when a work is donated to the Navy, it belongs to society. And an appeal, “we need to empower our museums.” Some museums that feed on “voluntary contributions from visitors” and are “lacking in resources” due to the lack of visits due to the health crisis.