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John Worley (1624 - c. 1721).

John Worley (1624 - c. 1721).
John Worley (1624 - c. 1721).
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: BHC3102
Description: A head and shoulders portrait to right, in a natural-coloured coat and with a long white beard. This portrait was originally on a narrow oblong canvas but it is now in an oval with small additions on each side. Worley was one of the first pensioners to be admitted to Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich when its King Charles Court began receiving them in 1705. He had been at sea for 70 years, apparently once in the coal trade but later in the navy, and was twice mentioned in the early records of the Hospital as being punished for drunkenness and disruptive behaviour. The painting shows him at the age of 96, posed as the model for the figure of 'Winter' in the ceiling of the Painted Hall at Greenwich, which Thornhill commenced painting in 1708. The artist regarded the depiction of Time as an important element in his scheme and he included the seasons, months and days of the week, positioning 'Winter', or 'Hyems' in the Zodiac framework of the ceiling. Thornhill's own explanation of the painting states that 'In the circumference of the oval are twelve signs of the Zodiac with their proper attitudes over which preside the four seasons of the year. Spring or Flora, over Aries, Taurus, Gemini; Summer or Ceres, over Cancer, Leo, Virgo; Autumn or Bacchus over Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius; Hyems or Winter over Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces'. Thornhill was a portrait and history painter, the most successful of decorative painters of interiors of the English school, and the first native British artist to be knighted (1720). Using the apotheosis of William and Mary as the central theme, his ceiling at Greenwich is regarded as one of his greatest achievements and is an important example of history painting fusing moral values into it subject matter. This oil study of Worley was presented to Greenwich Hospital by Thornhill himself and is one of its earliest pictures.
Creator: Sir James Thornhill (1675-1735)
Date: 1720
Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
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