Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake
by Nicholas Hilliard
watercolour on vellum, 1581
1 1/8 in. (28 mm) diameter
Purchased with help from the Wolfson Foundation and H.M. Government, 1971
Sitterback to top
- Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), Admiral and circumnavigator. Sitter associated with 38 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 34 portraits.
This portraitback to top
This miniature was produced in the year Drake was knighted by the Queen Elizabeth I.Red pigment used for the nose and cheeks give the sitter's flesh a pronounced ruddy tone.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Tudor Portraits Resource Pack, p. 30
- Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 32
- Gittings, Clare, The National Portrait Gallery Book of The Tudors, 2006, p. 23
- MacLeod, Catharine, Tudor Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 30
- MacLeod, Catharine; Rab, MacGibbon; Button, Victoria; Coombs, Katherine; Derbyshire, Alan, Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures from Hilliard and Oliver, 2019 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 21 February - 19 May 2019), p. 70
- Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 27
- Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 57
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 186
- Schama, Simon, The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits, 2015-09-15, p. 256
- Tarnya Cooper, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 96
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 53 Read entry
Pirate, sea captain and explorer, Francis Drake is renowned for his three-year circumnavigation of the world, from which he returned in 1580 a rich and feared man. His profitable raids on Spanish ports were a contributing factor in Philip II of Spain’s decision to launch an Armada, against which Drake would serve as vice-admiral of the English fleet.
This portrait, by the renowned English miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard (c.1547–1619), was painted in 1581, the year Drake was knighted. Drake is shown as a gentleman and courtier, wearing a splendid gold chain, signifying his new-found wealth. Several contemporary accounts of Drake’s appearance survive and record him as being short, stocky and extremely strong. The red pigment Hilliard has used for the nose and cheeks gives Drake’s flesh a pronounced ruddy tone. The historian John Stow records that Drake’s enemies as well as his friends ‘desired his Picture’, making it all the more extraordinary that so few authentic portraits made during his lifetime have survived.
- Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 20 Read entry
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
Events of 1581back to top
Current affairsSir Francis Drake is knighted on board his ship the Golden Hind.
The heir to the French crown, François, Duke of Anjou comes to England to finalise marriage negotiations with Elizabeth I. He returns home unsuccessful the following year.
Parliament passes legislation against Catholicism.
The Jesuit missionary Edmund Campion is executed for treason.
Art and scienceThe mathematician Norman Robert publishes a pioneering study of magnetism The Newe Attractive
The first ballet Ballet Comique de la Reine by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx is performed in Paris.
InternationalThe Oath of Abjuration - the seven northern, Protestant provinces of the Netherlands formally renounce their allegiance to Philip II of Spain and become an independent republic, the United Provinces .
Stephen Báthory of Poland invades Russia as part of the Livonian war.
Akbar, Mughal Emperor of India, conquers Kabul (in present-day Afghanistan).
Arjan Dev becomes the fifth of the ten Sikh Gurus.
Recommended Exhibitions & displays
- 'This sceptred isle': Shakespeare and the Plantagenets
Until 31 May 2020
- Coming Home: Sir Francis Drake
Until 22 September
Buckland Abbey – National Trust, Yelverton