The magnificent Painted Hall is recognised as the greatest piece of decorative painting in England and has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, it was originally intended as a dining hall for the naval pensioners who lived here at the Royal Hospital for Seamen.

The Painted Hall has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’. 

The walls and ceiling were painted by Sir James Thornhill in two major phases between 1708 and 1727, and use symbolism to deliver powerful messages on a range of subjects, including the monarchy, religion, maritime power, navigation and trade. 

Discover more of the Painted Hall's history >
Painted Hall - West Wall - Old Royal Naval College The west wall, created between 1718 and 1726 by Sir James Thornhill.

Top things to see

Painted Hall - Vestibule Dome - Old Royal Naval College The vestibule dome towers 90ft above the entrance to the Painted Hall.

The vestibule dome

Look up as you enter the Painted Hall and you will see one of the most spectacular domed ceilings in London rising 90ft above you.

The Painted Hall ceiling

At a staggering 5,683 square feet the Painted Hall ceiling is the largest figurative painting in the country. The theme of Sir James Thornhill’s exuberant lower hall ceiling is the triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny. It pays tribute to King William and Queen Mary, seated in glory in the middle of the central oval, and the importance of naval power to the fortunes of the nation.

Thornhill's self-portrait

Sir James Thornhill took 19 years to decorate the Painted Hall, often described as ‘the finest dining hall in Europe’. He was knighted in 1729 – the first English artist to receive this honour – and you can see him on the west wall in the upper hall gesturing towards his great composition. Next to him lie the tools of his trade; a palette, scroll and paintbrushes.

The Painted Hall today

Over the next three years we plan to clean and conserve over 40,000 sq ft of the magnificent Painted Hall wall and ceiling paintings.

This ambitious £7 million conservation project will not only bring back the vibrancy of Thornhill's paintings, but it will also help us to tell all the stories of this 18-century masterpiece. Throughout the project we will provide opportunities for people to become involved in the process of conservation, learn about conservation techniques and work with us to tell the stories told by Thornhill within this masterpiece.  There will be an opportunity for every visitor, during and after the project, to take away a new memory, skill, a message or new understanding. to more people. It will enable us to create new educational opportunities and help develop conservation skills.

Find out how you can help us to conserve more of the Painted Hall and secure Sir James Thornhill's wonderful works of art for both present and future generations.

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