You only have until September 30th to book a place on one of the magnificent ceiling tours at the Painted Hall in Greenwich. The tour enables you to get up close and personal with James Thornhill’s painted ceiling and the 200 characters that that are within it. Climb the 67 steps to view one of Britain’s largest allegorical paintings up close, another opportunity won’t arise for 100 years!
In 1692 at the sight of the wounded after a victorious naval battle Queen Mary was inspired to order the building of a naval hospital. Christopher Wren offered his services as an architect for free and building began with Nicholas Hawksmoor as his assistant. In 1708 James Thornhill began the decoration of the Painted Hall. Thornhill saw this as his opportunity to advertise himself as a history painter, and did not seek payment until the work was finished nineteen years later. He was paid £3 per yard for the ceiling and £1 for the walls. The ceiling represents King William and his Queen Mary handing liberty and peace to Europe.
Over the 300 years since the ceiling was completed, many restorations have taken place and restorers have left their marks, one even on the queen’s chest!
Once the ceiling was finished in 1727 many visitors flocked to see it and could buy a printed description supplied by Thornhill himself, enabling visitors to interpret the 200 characters on the ceiling.
One of them is John Flamsteed, the first Royal Astronomer. The date below him shows his prediction of the eclipse, a year after the ceiling was finished. Luckily his prediction was correct otherwise Thornhill would have had to get up on his scaffolding all over again! Thornhill was the first ever british-born painter to be knighted.
After September 30th 2018 the painted hall won’t open its doors again until 2019, so make sure you squeeze in this fascinating tour.