Anonymous: Portrait of Lieutenant-Admiral Piet Pieterszoon Heijn (1630-1640)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Piet Pieterszoon Heijn, or Piet Hein as he is better known, is one of the best known Dutch admirals of the 17th century. Piet Hein was in the service of the Dutch West India Company (WIC) and was active in the Caribbean, Brazil and African coast during which he raided Spanish and Portuguese ships and colonies. During one of the raids he achieved his greatest success. Spain used so-called  treasure fleets to transport a wide variety of items, including silver, gold, gems, pearls, spices and other exotic goods from the Spanish Empire in the Americas to Spain. The ships transporting these goods always sailed in a convoy and were generally heavily guarded. During the Battle in the Bay of Matanzas (Cuba) on 7 September–8 September 1628, Piet Hein managed to capture the Spanish Saint James treasure fleet from Mexico. After a short fight, Piet Hein captured the fleet entire fleet of 16 ships. The total amount of booty was 177.000 pound of silver, 66 pound of gold, 1000 pearls, 37.375 animal skins, 361 boxes of sugar and 3000 bags of indigo and cochenille, very precious dyes and jewelry. The total value of the booty was about 11,509,524 Dutch Guilders (which is about 500 million euro today). The capture of the fleet had serious consequences for the Dutch revolt, the 80-years war. With the capture of the fleet, Spain couldn't finance an attack on the Dutch army and The Netherlands used the booty of the treasure fleet to attack and capture the strong fortress of 's-Hertogenbosch. With the capture of 's-Hertogenbosch, the Spanish position in the Netherlands crumbled and Spain lost its change to bring the war to a success. Piet Hein himself was killed on 17 june 1629, fighting Spanish privateers from Dunkirk. This painting is from 1630-1640.