Armada portrait of Elizabeth restored to its former glory
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.