This map, advertised in The London Gazette of 5–8 June 1676, was commissioned by the map and chart publisher John Seller to profit from public interest in a recent sea battle (shown on the map) off Sicily between the French and the Dutch, who had been assisting the Spanish rulers of Sicily, during which the famous Dutch admiral Tromp had been killed. The map continued to be inserted into Sellers atlases – usually with gaudy colours obscuring the fine etching – long after the battle had been forgotten.
The map shows Wenceslaus Hollar’s continuing skill as an etcher in his last months. It can be seen in his sensitive treatment of the mountains but particularly in the view of the Strait of Messina from the sea. Its liveliness and the acute observation of the buildings of Messina and even of the people on the jetty contrast with the other view of Messina derived from a view that had been published over 60 years earlier. It suggests that Hollar copied the view of the Straits from a drawing that he had done on the spot: he was in Tangier between August 1669 and December 1670 and during this period he may well have made a short trip to Messina and Naples.