The unique portrait of John Donne – the National Portrait Gallery have until the end of June to raise the rest of the funds.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The National Portrait Gallery, who are displaying the portrait in their current Searching for Shakespeare exhibition, have secured £750,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a further £200,000 from the Art Fund, Britain's leading art charity, who have led the call to save it for the nation.

The portrait, painted c.1595, is an oil on panel by an unknown artist and shows Donne (1572-1631), the leading light of the Metaphysical movement, as a young, melancholic lover in the shadows.

Described by Sir Roy Strong as "the most famous of all melancholy love portraits" and by the English literary critic Dame Helen Gardner as "the most striking portrait we have of any English poet", it is thought that Donne commissioned the work to win a reluctant heart. This might explain the inscription, which translates from the Latin as "O Lady Lighten our darkness" and is a reworking of a psalm.

The portrait, which has been in one family collection since it was bequeathed in Donne's will - described as "that picture of myne wch is taken in shaddowes and was made very many years before I was of this profession" (before he was ordained) - was 'lost' for many years before being 'rediscovered' in 1959. It is on offer to the National Portrait Gallery by private treaty sale on the instructions of the executors of the late Lord Lothian.

Anyone who would like to help should contact the National Portrait Gallery directly.