The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Coming Home: Sir Francis Drake

Past national programme archive
27 April - 29 September 2019

Buckland Abbey – National Trust, Yelverton

Sir Francis Drake
by Unknown artist
circa 1581
NPG 4032

Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 – 1596) was an English explorer and privateer, and the first sea captain to circumnavigate the globe. Following his return to Plymouth in 1580, he was hailed a hero by the English and knighted by Elizabeth I. As one of the most renowned seafarers of his day, Drake’s fame spread during his lifetime through his portraits, which people reportedly queued to see, and has endured into the twenty-first century.

This full-length portrait of Drake is one of the most iconic in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. It is thought to have been commissioned after he returned from his famous voyage, around the same time as his acquisition of the suitably grand Buckland Abbey, as a means of demonstrating his new status to his peers. The portrait is displayed alongside a portrait of his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Sydenham, in the home they shared and sees the two paintings reunited for the first time in over 60 years.

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