Although traditionally presumed to be a capriccio, this work is made the more intriguing by the flags flying from the mastheads of the arriving English man-o'war. Instead of the usual jacks of the period, the vessel is wearing what are termed 'the "Stuart" colours' and although it remains unclear what precisely these striped flags denoted, it is possible that they alluded to an allegiance to the Stuart Kings of England in general, and to James II in particular after his enforced abdication in favour of William III and Queen Mary.
Although descended from Portugese parentage, Lorenzo Castro was born and bred in Antwerp, where he received his early training, possibly from his father, Sebastian. It is recorded that he travelled extensively to Lisbon, Genoa, Sicily and Malta, and appears to have settled in England between 1672-1686, painting Mediterranean scenes to a specific market. Many of his works are held in English private and public collections, (notably the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which has six). In style, Castro was excellent with figures and, indeed, was an accomplished portrait painter who also used the contrast between colour and darkness to intensify his scenes.