Queen Elizabeth I has one of the most recognizable faces in the world. The portraits commissioned during her reign display only some of her regality and her great achievements throughout her life. One of the most famous of these portraits is known as the Armada Portrait. Actually, there are three copies of the Armada portrait: one is kept at Woburn Abbey, family estate of the Dukes of Bedford. The second is kept in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The third is kept by the Trywhitt-Drake Family, the descendants of the English privateer Sir Francis Drake. This past week, one of the portraits was brought into the spotlight. After four hundred years, the Tyrwhitt-Drake Family is now selling the famous painting.
The Armada Portrait was created to commemorate the English victory over the Spanish invasion fleet in 1588. It shows Elizabeth I with her hand on a globe, showing England’s future of global expansion starting with the Americas. Behind her are two scenes, one showing the English fleet sitting safe in the sun while the other shows the Spanish fleet being decimated by the Protestant Wind, a great storm that eventually saved England from Spanish invasion. The painting was likely commissioned by Sir Francis Drake himself, being that Drake was a commander of the English during the failed Spanish invasion.
Currently, the British government is hoping to raise £10 million ($14.5 million) to purchase the portrait for the Royal Museums Greenwich, a British institution that owns Queen’s House, near where Elizabeth I was born. If the government is unable to raise the money, the portrait will be sold on the open market, where it will undoubtedly sell for a much higher price and likely by a non-British buyer. If this does occur, the British government will probably implement a temporary export ban to give British buyers another chance to keep it in the country. The British government has been known to implement temporary export bans on culturally and historically significant artifacts, such as a dagger belonging to T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and the Femme statue by Alberto Giacometti. This also isn’t the first time that the public museums in Britain have raised money for such a cause. In the past few years, the Art Fund raised £10 million to purchase a self-portrait by Anthony Van Dyck.