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Appeal to save £10m Elizabeth I portrait

Do Not UseDo Not Use 23/05/2016
Armada portrait of Elizabeth I © BBC Armada portrait of Elizabeth I

An appeal has been launched to save one of three surviving versions of the Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.

Sir Francis Drake: The Art Fund said the portrait was owned, and may even have been commissioned by, Sir Francis Drake. © Getty Images The Art Fund said the portrait was owned, and may even have been commissioned by, Sir Francis Drake.

A total of £10m needs to be raised in order to save the life-sized painting, considered a masterpiece of the English Renaissance.

The Art Fund has already pledged £1m, while Royal Museums Greenwich have committed £400,000.

If the target is reached, the painting will enter public ownership for the first time in its 425-year history.

The portrait, thought to have been painted in 1590, is currently owned by descendants of Sir Francis Drake.

It is one of three surviving versions of the Armada portrait, together with those currently on display at Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery in London.

A group of the Art Fund's supporters, including private donors and charitable trusts, has pledged to match every public donation pound for pound.

The portrait commemorates the most famous conflict of Elizabeth's reign, the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588.

It is considered one of the definitive representations of the English Renaissance and one of the most famous images from British history.

If the fundraising campaign for the remaining £8.6 million is successful, the painting will enter the UK's national collection.

The Art Fund has said it would hang in the Queen's House, near to the site of the original Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Elizabeth I herself.

The Queen's House is reopening later this year following major restorations.

Elizabeth I was in her late 50s when she sat for the Armada portrait, which is unusual for its large size (110.5 x 125 cm) and horizontal format.

It is thought the portrait may have been commissioned by Sir Francis Drake, one of the great heroes 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 Art Fund recently raised £10m for Van Dyck's self portrait for the National Portrait Gallery, London, and £15.75m to save the Wedgwood Collection in 2014.

During the fundraising period, the Armada portrait of Elizabeth I will be put on public display at the National Maritime Museum in London from 23 May.

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