An appeal to save a masterpiece of the English Renaissance for the Nation has been launched jointly by the Art Fund charity and the Royal Museums Greenwich. The painting is one of three surviving versions of the Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. £10m is needed to save the life-sized painting. The Art Fund has already pledged £1m, while Royal Museums Greenwich have committed £400,000. The painting will enter public ownership for the first time in its 425-year history, If the target is reached.
Painted around 1590, the artwork is currently owned by descendants of Sir Francis Drake.It is one of three surviving examples of the Armada portrait, along with one on display at Woburn Abbey and the other at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Art Fund supporters, including private donors and charitable trusts, have pledged to match every public donation pound for pound. The portrait is steeped in history and commemorates the conflict during Elizabeth’s reign,the invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. It is considered one of the most famous images from British history. The portrait was owned, and possibly commissioned by, Sir Francis Drake.
The painting is expected to become part of the UK’s national collection. The Art Fund stated, it will hang in the Queen’s House, near to the site of the original Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Elizabeth I. Queen’s House is reopening later this year following major refurbishment.
Elizabeth I sat for the Armada portrait when she was in her 50s. The unusual large size (110.5 x 125 cm) and horizontal format helps make the portrait priceless to the Nation. Commissioned by Sir Francis Drake, one of the great figures of Queen Elizabeth’s court. Sir Francis’s descendants have had it in their possession since at least 1775. If the £10 million is not raised, the painting will be sold on the open market and may therefore leave the UK. The Armada portrait of Elizabeth I will be put on public display at the National Maritime Museum in London from 23 May.