The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588 © National Maritime Museum, London
Something to look forward to in the new year is the Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich (13 February 2020 until 31 August 2020). The exhibition presents the three surviving versions of the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I and it will be the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.
Considered, one of the most iconic images in British history, the Armada Portrait commemorates the most famous conflict in Elizabeth’s reign, the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade England in 1588. Royal Museums Greenwich will showcase its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other surviving versions, from the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.
The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. From the Woburn Abbey Collection
Athough the artists of the paintings is unknown it is believed that three versions of the Armada Portrait were painted shortly after the event, circa 1588. The three portraits united at the Queen’s House are the only contemporary versions in existence and the only three featuring seascapes that depict episodes from the Spanish Armada in the background.
The portraits will be displayed in the Queen’s House, the 17th century house, designed by Inigo Jones which is part of the original Greenwich Palace complex, which was a centre for the Tudor dynasty and the birthplace of Elizabeth I.
Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown English artist, circa 1588 © National Portrait Gallery, London
In all three versions of the iconic portrait, the dominating figure of the Queen in a rich gold-embroidered and jewelled dress, behind her are two seascapes, depicting different episodes in the Spanish Armada. The portraits were used to present a public image of Elizabeth I, presenting her as a powerful, authoritative and majestic figure.
The exhibition will be a rare opportunity to see iconic portraits of Elizabeth I in a location that will be forever be associated with the Tudor world.
Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I will be open from 13 February – 31 August 2020 at the Queen’s House in Greenwich and is free to visit.