The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I has been bought by Royal Museums Greenwich, thanks to a £7.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, announced on Friday, 29 July. This is one the largest grants ever given by the lottery for a museum acquisition.
The portrait (around 1590) is being sold by the Tyrwhitt-Drake family, the descendants of Sir Francis Drake, who may well have commissioned it. The price for a public collection is about £9.7m with tax concessions, although the open-market value of the painting would be over £16m.
A fundraising campaign was launched by the Art Fund in May, starting with their own pledge of £1m and £400,000 from Royal Museums Greenwich. The Art Fund then raised a further £1.5m through more than public 8,000 donations, with major contributions coming from the Linbury Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Headley Trust. The lottery has now made up the remainder—and provided some extra funds for conservation and education.
The artist of the Armada Portrait remains unidentified, although earlier art historians have ascribed it to George Gower or Nicholas Hilliard. Next year, the portrait is to be conserved, and this may yield more information that could reveal the painter’s identity. In the meantime, the portrait is to go on display in the Queen’s House, next to the National Maritime Museum, which reopens on 11 October after refurbishment.