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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Donne portrait appeal gets boost
John Donne portrait (Pic: National Portrait Gallery)
John Donne became the Dean of St Paul's
A bid to buy an iconic 16th Century portrait of the English poet John Donne has received a 750,000 boost.

The portrait - created in about 1595 by an unknown painter - has been the subject of a major National Portrait Gallery appeal since January.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has given the appeal 750,000, taking the total raised to date to 1,283,943.

The rest of the money must be raised by June to reach the 1.4m target.

Greatest poets

The painting, regarded as the most important painting of Donne, has been privately owned for 400 years.

The artist behind the portrait is not known but it was bequeathed to an ancestor of the current owner in Donne's will.

It depicts Donne, who lived from 1572 to 1631, at around the time he wrote what is considered to be one of his greatest poems, To His Mistress Going To Bed, from his Elegies series.

NHMF head Stephen Johnson said: "John Donne is one of this nation's greatest poets and his 16th Century poems continue to dazzle us in the 21st Century.

"Although his words are famous, few people know what he looked like in real life."

If the gallery is successful in raising the final 116,057 needed, the painting will undergo a conservation assessment and be put on public display.

The appeal was also helped by the executors of the estate of the late Lord Lothian, who agreed to reduce the gross price of the painting from 2.36m to 2m.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery said: "I am delighted that a really substantial grant has been offered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

"Together with the contribution from The Art Fund, the help of the Executors of Lord Lothian's estate and the extraordinary response of the public, means that we are a really significant way towards reaching our target."

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