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Thornhill's painted ceiling

Early sketches for Thornhill's Painted Hall in Greenwich Hospital.

Early sketch for the ceiling of the Painted Hall.

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Early sketch for the ceiling of the Painted Hall.
An early design for the main Painted Hall ceiling. Many of the elements in the final version are already present but only William III appears in the centre without his wife, Queen Mary. Other elements which appear here were taken out and later incorporated in the design of the Upper Hall. These include figures of the four Continents supporting the two side panels, which are now in the Upper Hall ceiling. A figure with a pyramid (for the stability of dynasties) above William now appears behind that of George I on the west wall. Thornhill also uses zodiacal annotations around the central oval, indicating where figures representing the zodiac appear in the finished ceiling.

Sketches for the west wall of the Painted Hall.

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Sketches for the west wall of the Painted Hall.
Two studies for the design of the west wall of the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital, annotated by Thornhill. Both show George II as Prince of Wales, in armour on the left at the top of steps, with Thornhill at the bottom, back to viewer by the pillar base on the right. The Prince has his left hand on his hip and holds a commander's baton in his right. Between these two in the top sketch stand three bewigged figures, the central one showing a paper with a list of naval victories, the fourth man being at a lower, seated level. Thornhill has noted above that these are 'The 4 L[or]ds Com[m]iss[ione]rs [of the Admiralty] that / are Admirals'. On the lower version they are replaced by a single bewigged figure annotated as 'S[i]r J[ohn]. Jennings showing a / Plan of p[ar]t of ye Hospital to ye / Prince' : Admiral Jennings was the Hospital Governor, 1720-43. On both versions George II is annotated below, 'P. Wales', with Thornhill annotated on the pillar base at the bottom only, 'J Thornhill / showing ye / Painting'.
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The Painted Hall, Greenwich Hospital  design for the west wall.

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The Painted Hall, Greenwich Hospital  design for the west wall.
This design was not in fact executed for the 'great west front' in the Upper Hall, but it does contain a number of elements which appear in variant form in the final version. These include the Corinthian columns, the seated figure of George I and the standing figures of his son George II as Prince of Wales and of Prince Frederick standing by the king. The urn on the right was discarded but the trophies of arms below the pillars were retained. The curved arcade seen in the background was replaced by a view of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.

Design for the Upper Hall Ceiling

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Design for the Upper Hall Ceiling
A preliminary design, close to that executed. In the centre, a cartouche of Queen Anne and her husband, Prince George, is supported by Hercules and a female figure representing Justice. Fame with a wreath and palm flies above. Plenty with a cornucopia is the figure behind, upper left. At lower right Neptune beckons up attendants with offerings from the sea. At the bottom another male figure, possibly Jupiter, casts down others representing Vices, with Juno, crowned and with her peacock, to the left. The concave corners of the central frame are supported by pairs of mermen and mermaids.
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Find out more
StoriesThe Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: 'A Refuge for All'
The foundation of the Greenwich Hospital and the Greenwich Royal Hospital School
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StoriesMaritime Greenwich: A World Heritage Site
A unique historical landscape
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GalleriesThe Greenwich Hospital collection
Examples of famous paintings and artefacts donated to the Greenwich Hospital.
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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