Andries van Eertvelt's paintings were much praised within his own lifetime, and were exported as far as Seville and Lisbon. He became a member of the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp in 1609, and around 1627 went to Genoa, where he worked for Cornelis de Wael. He returned to Antwerp around 1630, and sat for Anthony van Dyck who painted his portrait in 1632 (Augsburg, Schaezlerpal). Eertvelt's earlier marines were painted in darkish tones, often with white, spidery highlights on the rigging against a dark sea, whereas his later works, after his trip to Italy, generally became much calmer in feel and larger in size, focusing instead on Southern views and using softer tones.
This striking oil on copper depicts the Battle of Lepanto, which took place on 7 October 1571 in the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece. It was the first major Ottoman defeat by the Christian powers and heralded the end of Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean. This decisive five-hour battle was fought between the Holy League (an uneasy coalition between Venice, the Papacy, Spain, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights of Malta and others) under John of Austria, and the Ottomans, under Uluç Ali Pasha. The Holy League'’s fleet consisted of 206 galleys and six galleasses (converted merchant galleys with artillery), and carried around 30,000 fighting men, which was evenly matched by the Ottoman fleet, which nevertheless suffered a humiliating defeat. It was the final major battle between oared vessels, and was celebrated by artists at the time, as well as by later artists. Given the Genoan involvement under Giovanni Andrea Doria, who commanded 53 galleys for the Holy League, it seems quite probable that Andries van Eertvelt painted this picture for a Genoese patron, in circa 1627/30.