Probably commissioned by Antwerp publisher Hieronymus Cock, Pieter Brueghel the Elder drew a number of portraits of ships around 1561-1562 as an example for the engraver Frans Huys. The total series consists of eleven prints and are generally recognized as the beginning of the independence of the maritime genre. Some of the prints are known in several states, indicating artistic and commercial success.
This three-master carries in the two highest masts two identical flags bearing a two-headed imperial eagle, indicating that this ship was under the authority of the Austro-Burgundian Spanish dynasty. As with several other prints in this series, Brueghel also depicted a mythological story in the representation. It concerns the myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus who had wings tied to their backs in order to fly. However, when they came too close to the sun, the wax holding the feathers together melted and they both fell down. This story is sometimes explained as a warning against pride.