Five must-sees at the Queen's House

As the 17th-century 'house of delight' re-opens after conservation, we pick out the star objects to track down on your visit.

1

Unknown artist, Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, c1590

Once owned – and possibly also commissioned – by Sir Francis Drake, the painting commemorates the Spanish Armada's failed invasion of England in 1588. Considered the archetypal image of the queen, it has been used to represent her likeness in historical books as well as on stage and screen. After it was offered for sale by Drake's descendants earlier this year, Art Fund and Royal Museums Greenwich launched an appeal to acquire the portrait for the Queen's House collection. Thanks to grants from both organisations, the Heritage Lottery Fund and 8,000 donations from the public, this incredible masterpiece now hangs on the site where Elizabeth was born (formerly Greenwich Palace) and alongside the parkland in which she played as a child.


2

William Hogarth, Inigo Jones,1757-8

Inigo Jones was chosen to design the building in 1616 by James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark (the house reportedly a gift from the king to apologise for swearing in front of her after she had accidentally killed one of his favourite dogs during a hunt). Unlike the traditional, red-brick Tudor style of buildings of the time, Queen's House boasted elegant proportions and sumptuous interiors making it the first fully Classical building in England. Anne never lived to see her dream realised, dying in 1619 when only the first floor had been completed. Hogarth was commissioned to create this portrait of Jones in 1757 by Sir Edward Littleton, MP when he was refurbishing his mansion in Staffordshire and collecting portraits of 'British worthies' to decorate it. The artist was greatly inspired by Van Dyck's style.


3

Orazio Gentileschi, Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, c1630-3

After the death of Anne of Denmark the property came under the ownership of King Charles I and his wife, Henrietta Maria, who oversaw its completion. Florentine artist Orazio Gentileschi was a particular favourite of the royal couple and – as well as being chosen to create the nine ceiling paintings for the Great Hall (now at Marlborough House) – he was also commissioned to create a number of pieces for display in the chambers, Joseph and Potiphar's Wife included. The artist worked on the composition methodically – painting the floor tiles before the figures, the bed before the untucked sheets – while he also added a drop of Venetian amber varnish added to his palette to give the flesh a special translucency. This display marks the first time the painting has been shown at the house since the 1650s (it is now in the Royal Collection).


4

LS Lowry, View of Deptford Power Station from Greenwich, 1959

Lowry painted very few pictures of London, making this Deptford landscape particularly interesting. Rather than focus on Greenwich's green parks or quaint historical landmarks, the artist chooses to depict the churning power station and working ships that represented London's industrial might. Sparse, bleak and sparing in colour, it's a disquieting vision; human figures are pushed out to the far left, as if to signify man's inconsequence against machine. 


5

Richard Wright, no title, 2016

His largest work to date, Richard Wright's ornamental, gold leaf design sprawls across the ceiling and gallery walls of the Great Hall. It was inspired by the the wrought iron leaves, scrolls and flower heads that can be found on the spiral balustrade on the stairs, as well as other features from the original architecture. Created with a team of assistants over the course of nine weeks it was painstakingly applied by hand, just as craftspeople in the 17th century would have done. This commission – made possible with Art Fund support – marks a historic moment for Queen's House; not since Gentileschi in the 1630s has any artist created a new permanent work for the ceiling of the Great Hall.


Venue details

The Queen's House Romney Road, Greenwich London SE10 9NF 020 8858 4422 www.rmg.co.uk/queens-house

Entry details

Free to all

Daily, 10am – 5pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec

Tags: Great days outsave-armadaweve-helped-to-buyWhat to see