The famous Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which was once owned by Sir Francis Drake, is to be sold for the first time in 400 years, as a £10m campaign is launched to save it. It has been privately held by the Tyrwhitt-Drake family for generations and it is now up for sale. The Art Fund and Royal Museums Greenwich has launched a fundraising campaign to save it for the nation and needs to raise £10m in the next two months to secure it. If they cannot raise the money, the portrait will be offered for sale worldwide and it is likely that is will end up in another private collection.
The painting commemorates the most famous conflict of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in the summer of 1588. It has been loaned out for key exhibitions, but it has remained hidden for most of the time, being displayed over the mantlepiece at Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire, which is the Tyrwhitt-Drake family home. The Art Fund has already pledged £1m, while Royal Museums Greenwich has pledged £400,000, which is also its entire annual acquisitions budget. They now call upon the public for the remainder of the money, who can donate via the Art Fund.
Stephen Deuchar, the director of the Art Fund, is hopeful that the public will rally to raise the money, especially considering the successful campaigns to save the Van Dyck self-portrait and the Wedgwood Collection recently.
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. Greenwich is the perfect home for the Armada portrait. Elizabeth I was born at Greenwich Palace in 1533 and the early 17th-century Queen’s House, where we would like to display the painting, is the last remaining part of the palace. 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.”