The Queen's House
London, SE10 9NF
Free to all
This intimate 17th-century villa sitting in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum was designed by Inigo Jones to be fit for a queen.
The building was commissioned by Anne of Denmark, wife of James I. Jones, her chosen designer was, fresh from a three years in Italy and steeped in classical and Renaissance architecture. Anne died soon afterwards, and the building was completed for Charles I’s consort, Henrietta Maria.
As England’s first Classical building, it would have been revolutionary in its day. Leading painters, including Jacob Jordaens and Orazio Gentilleschi, provided decorative panels for the interiors, which were adorned with classical statuary.
The house reopened after refurbishment of the galleries and the famous tulip stairs in time to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2016. As part of the project Art Fund commissioned Richard Wright to create ornamental, gold leaf design sprawls across the ceiling and gallery walls of the Great Hall. The artist 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 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.
Please note: the Armada portrait will be back on display from mid-October 2017.
Since Henrietta Maria’s time the house has undergone many changes of use, and it now showcases the museum's fine art collection, with an ongoing programme of displays and temporary exhibitions, including contemporary work.
Art we’ve helped buy at The Queen's House
The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, c1590 joined the collection in 2016. Once owned – and possibly also commissioned – by Sir Francis Drake, the painting commemorates the Spanish Armada's failed invasion of England in 1588.
As one of the few portraits Elizabeth sat for, it has become accepted as the archetypal image of the queen; not only is it used to represent her likeness in historical books but it has also inspired portrayals of her on stage and screen. After it was offered for sale by Drake's descendants in early 2016, 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 in as a child.