Celebrities and surprises spotted in Painted Hall, Greenwich

Painted Hall Greenwich
James Brittain
The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich reopens on 23 March, thanks to £3.1million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

After a two-year conservation project costing £8.5m, the 'Sistine Chapel of the UK’ will open to the public again this weekend.

Covering 4,000 square metres, The Painted Hall’s decorative interior is regarded as a masterpiece of English Baroque arts. It took 19 years to complete.

The paintings by Sir James Thornhill celebrate England’s naval power and feature hundreds of historical, mythological and contemporary figures.

Here are some of the finer details to look out for:  

Sir James Thornhill's selfie

Painting of Sir James Thornhill

The painter of the Hall’s decorative interior, Sir James Thornhill, was the first British painter to be knighted. When creating his Baroque masterpiece, he included himself among the crowds. He can be found on the West Wall of the Upper Hall.

Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark

Portrait fo Queen Anne

Olivia Colman recently won an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite. The monarch also makes a cameo appearance in the mural of the Painted Hall alongside her husband Prince George of Denmark.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Painting of St Paul's Cathedral

If you look closely in the background of the mural on the West Wall of the Upper Hall, you can see the iconic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. The Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed the Old Royal Naval College.

Africa, Asia, America and Europe

Painting of black woman

This figure of "Africa" is one of four characters found on the edge of the Upper Hall ceiling. Each one represented the only four continents known to people at the time: Africa, Asia, America and Europe.

Opening weekend

The Painted Hall reopens on 23 March with a weekend of special activities, including music recitals and historic figures touring the grounds. There will also be a photography exhibition telling the story of the Hall’s conservation. 

Find out more on the Old Royal Naval College website.

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