I posted about the National Gallery’s efforts to raise funds to purchase a fabulous portrait of John Donne. They raised the funds, and the future of the portrait is secured; you can read about it here. There’s also some more background about the painting here.
John Donne by Unknown English artist oil on panel, circa 1595 National Portrait Gallery
There aren’t that many portraits of John Donne, and one of the best, the one you see here, has been in various private collections and less than accessible. This portrait was painted in Donne’s twenties, around the 1590s, the period when Jonson said “Donne wrote wrote all his best poetry,” the era in which we think most of the love poetry was written. The portrait was almost certainly done with Donne’s supervision. It’s Donne done as a melancholy lover, complete with disheveled and pricey expensive lace collars undone, and a Latin epigram. Donne is wearing an exceedingly romantic black floppy hat, and there’s a certain earnest directness to his gaze that suggests the suffering lover. You can read about the portrait here, and you should because it’s interesting.
This is more than likely the portrait Donne described in his will and left to Robert Ker, later 1st Earl of Ancrum (1578–1654):
I give to my honourable and faithful friend Mr Robert Karr of his Majesties Bedchamber that Picture of myne wch is taken in Shaddowes and was made very many yeares before I was of this profession [i.e. a minister].
England’s National Portrait Gallery is trying to raise funds to buy the portrait for the Gallery’s collection. You can read about the appeal here, and donate, very easily even from North America. The National Portrait Gallery must raise £1,652,000 by the end of May.