Art Fund contributes £200,000 to save John Donne portrait

  • 10 April 2006

Art Fund has given the National Portrait Gallery a grant of £200,000 to help save a smouldering portrait of metaphysical poet John Donne.

The portrait depicts Donne as a melancholic lover, brooding in the shadows. It is thought that the poet sat for the portrait in an attempt to win a reluctant heart.

This might explain the inscription at the base of the painting, which translates as ‘O Lady Lighten our darkness’.

Painted by an unknown English artist, the portrait shows us not only what Donne looked like as a young man, but how he saw himself in the days when he was writing some of the greatest love poems in the English language.

The National Portrait Gallery is now seeking to raise a total of £1,4 million to secure the painting.

If acquired, it would be an important acquisition for the Gallery, where it would be on permanent display beside iconic portraits of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton.