Ar­mada por­trait of El­iz­a­beth re­stored to its for­mer glory

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Mark Brown Pho­to­graph: Philip Toscano/PA

One of the most recog­nis­able por­traits in Bri­tish his­tory is re­turn­ing to pub­lic view af­ter a six-month restora­tion project to re­move cen­turies of re­touch­ing, grime and var­nish.

The Ar­mada Por­trait of El­iz­a­beth I was owned by Sir Fran­cis Drake and passed down through his fam­ily be­fore it was ac­quired for the na­tion last year af­ter a £10.3m-fundrais­ing cam­paign.

Chris­tine Rid­ing, head of arts and cu­ra­tor of the Queen’s House in Green­wich, south Lon­don, said it was only now, af­ter the restora­tion, that the true power of the por­trait could be seen.

“You can read the paint­ing bet­ter, it is more spec­tac­u­lar.

“You are now look­ing at some­thing which is more akin to the im­pact it would have had in the El­iz­a­bethan pe­riod,” she said.

The restora­tion was car­ried out by El­iz­a­beth Hamil­ton-Eddy, se­nior paint­ings con­ser­va­tor at Royal Mu­se­ums Green­wich. She was given a stu­dio and the op­por­tu­nity to work on the paint­ing with no other work dis­trac­tions.

“I was able to sit and con­cen­trate on this one mar­vel­lous paint­ing for a full six months,” she said. “It was the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time.”

Hamil­ton-Eddy said there were two dis­tinct lay­ers of var­nish which needed re­mov­ing. The orig­i­nal, which had nat­u­rally yel­lowed, and then an opaque brown var­nish ap­plied by some­one to give the paint­ing a more an­tique feel.

The por­trait com­mem­o­rates the de­feat of the Span­ish Ar­mada in Au­gust 1588. It goes back on pub­lic dis­play at Queen’s House in Green­wich to­day.

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