Greenwich's Painted Hall reopening in London after two-year renovation

Day beds will be offered to visitors to admire the newly-renovated Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. — Image courtesy of the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich via AFP
Day beds will be offered to visitors to admire the newly-renovated Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. — Image courtesy of the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich via AFP

LONDON, March 23 — Known as “The Sistine Chapel of the UK,” the Painted Hall in Greenwich will reopen its doors today.

The Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is decorated with paintings of British artist James Thornhill, which he started in 1707 and finished in 1726. The artworks celebrate England's naval power and mercantile prosperity, featuring a cast of hundreds of mythological, allegorical, and historical figures such as William III and Mary II.

The 4000 square-meter interior has been closed since 2016, undergoing a £8.5 million-conservation project — partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Supervised by specialist conservators Stephen Paine and Sophie Stewart, the project included restoring the 300-year-old painted surfaces — which have deteriorated since the last campaign of restoration in the 1950s.

Oak daybeds in crimson leather were also commissioned, encouraging visitors to lie down to fully admire Thornhill's fresco-covered ceilings. “We want visitors to really take their time to appreciate this extraordinary space,” said Will Palin, the conservation director at the Old Royal Naval College, to the Art Newspaper.

“But they don't have to stand there cracking their necks. Now they will be welcome to sit down, or even lie down, and marvel in comfort.”

The Painted Hall's grand reopening is part of the wider transformation of the vaulted Sir King William Undercroft, which lies beneath the room. It now hosts a new visitor center, Sackler Gallery and café, designed by Hugh Broughton Architects.

The Painted Hall will reopen to the public on March 23 from 10am to 5pm. —AFP-Relaxnews