The Painted Hall
The Painted Hall has been referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’ – its vast decorated interior, extending to 4,000 square metres, is the masterpiece of English baroque art. The £8.5 million conservation project, has reversed years of decay and conserved the Painted Hall for generations to come.
The Painted Hall is the centrepiece of the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren as a ceremonial dining room for what was then the new Royal Hospital for Seaman, the Painted Hall was completed in 1705. Its vast decorative scheme was painted by Sir James Thornhill, the first British artist to be knighted. Started in 1707, it took 19 years to complete. The paintings celebrate England’s naval power and mercantile prosperity, as well as its newly installed protestant monarchy. Successive monarchs William III and Mary II, Anne and George I join a cast of hundreds of figures, mythological, allegorical, historical and contemporary.
The scheme’s celebration of the English protestant monarchy was set against the perceived autocracy of predominantly Catholic Europe. The main section of the ceiling (the Lower Hall) features William III taking an olive branch from a figure representing peace and passing the ‘cap of liberty’ to the kneeling figure of Europe. At the same time the king tramples on a crouched figure representing arbitrary power and tyranny – a thinly veiled portrait of Louis XIV of France.
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Ian Kirby is the Coach-Potato and Managing Director of Talk-Tourism Ltd.
After becoming a City of London Guide in 2003 I created Talk-Tourism. Creating talks and days out for international and national event managers, local groups, individuals, plus special interest and educational groups.