Detail from Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

£10m Art Fund campaign to save Elizabeth I portrait

Eleanor Mills, 25.05.2016
Painting could enter public collection for first time in its 425-year history
Royal Museums Greenwich and the Art Fund have launched a fundraising campaign to save the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (c.1590) for the nation.

The portrait records the famous victory the English won over the Spanish Armada in 1588, and is one of the most iconic paintings of the era.

The price of £10m, net of tax, is thought to be very generous for this unusual artwork, though it has been difficult to value because of its unique quality and stature.

The descendants of famed seafarer Francis Drake have owned the painting since the first record of it in 1775. It is even speculated that Drake might have commissioned it, given the maritime subject matter that commemorates a great naval triumph.

The Art Fund has committed a sum of £1m towards the campaign to save the painting for the nation, and Royal Museums Greenwich have donated an unprecedented £400,000, leaving £8.6m to raise before the end of July.

If the money is raised, the portrait will go on display in the newly-reopened and restored Queen’s House in Greenwich, where Queen Elizabeth I was born.

Stephen Deuchar, the director of the Art Fund, said: “This campaign is a huge challenge but we believe in the power of popular support to make great things happen. This picture truly belongs at Greenwich, and having it here forever is tantalisingly within our grasp.”

A public fundraising campaign has been launched, while private donors will be approached by Royal Museums Greenwich to help save the painting for the nation.

Kevin Fewster, the director of Royal Museums Greenwich, said: “Royal Museums Greenwich has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire this remarkable portrait of Elizabeth I, so that it can be permanently shown in a public collection for the first time in its history, and safeguard its future.

“If our campaign is successful, it will be the centrepiece of a lively programme of displays, talks, tours, and education initiatives. With 2016 being the 90th birthday year of our present Queen, there could not be a more appropriate way to celebrate the second great Elizabethan era.”

Links and downloads

Donations can be made at www.artfund.org/armada, or by texting the word “Armada” to 70800 to donate £10 instantly.

Comments

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22.07.2016, 12:37
So, to conclude… this painting is unattributed, not dated and is only thought to have been commissioned by Drake.

As a resident of Greenwich, I saw no genuine impact from the arrival of the £5.5m Stubbs ‘Dingo’ and ‘Kangaroo’ at RMG. This saving stuff for the nation and handing over huge sums of money to line the pockets of private owners is not something I can get on board with. I argued at the time that the Stubbs would be more comfortable in the Natural History Museum and I believe the Elizabeth Armada Portrait would be far better received at the NPG.

However, the RMG seems to have been favoured for both - could that possibly be because Mr Deuchar was once briefly associated with the RMG? Art Fund under Mr D also brought Greenwich the plastic Shipinabottle, again at quite a price! I’m not sure who is funding the contemporary art ceiling works in The Queen’s House, but I would like to know.

Finally, may I remind the author of this article that 2016 is not just the Queen’s 90th birthday… it is in fact also the celebratory 400th anniversary of The Queen’s House - a building which changed the architectural makeup of these shores.

Personally, I would like to see Dr Fewster and others administering the Grade 1 ancient monument being just a little more active about addressing the overrunning re-opening project, than to spend time on promoting far less rogue causes which are only tenuously linked to maritime.

My apologies, but as a passionate supporter and independent @QHGreenwich twitter researcher of The Queen’s House, I feel we are deviating somewhat from critical elements of our rich national heritage.