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Capture of the Tripoli by the Enterprise

A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Thomas Birch
American, born England, 1779–1851

About this artwork

At the turn of the 19th century, conflict arose between the United States of America and the North African Barbary State of Tripoli. President Thomas Jefferson refused to continue to pay tribute or ransom to Tripoli to prevent the pirating of American merchant ships sailing in the Mediterranean Sea. Jefferson dispatched the American ship Enterprise to the Tripolitan waters as a sign of resistance just as Tripoli increased its tribute demands and declared war against the United States. Thomas Birch, an early specialist in maritime painting, captured the battle between the Enterprise and a Tripolitan cruiser in the Mediterranean’s dark, violent waters. The break in the clouds sheds light on this conflict and illuminates Birch’s fine details and precise rendering of these ships.


On View, Gallery 172


Arts of the Americas


Thomas Birch


Capture of the Tripoli by the Enterprise


Philadelphia (Place depicted)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

c. 1806–1812


Oil on canvas


On back: "Capture of the Corsair Tripoli by the / Enterprise under Sterrett and Porter / Off Malta August 1803 / T. Birch, Pinxit."


45.1 × 65.1 cm (17 3/4 × 25 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior acquisition of the Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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