Will Palin, Conservation Director

13 January 2017

With the snow falling on Greenwich it is appropriate that our conservators are now working on a group of figures representing the four winds.

A brooding figure of the north wind

These remarkable paintings, nearly 100ft up in the dome above the Vestibule of the Painted Hall, depict the winds as classical gods. The north wind has a fearsome visage, he clutches a thunderbolt and his mane of wild hair is being blown by a tempest.

An inventive representation of rain

In the south west corner figures bring rain, apparently in the form of large watering can. The south east wind brings sustenance, with a cherub shown suckling at the breast of a goddess.

Originally, these figures would have related to a curious internal dial which connected to the weathervane on the top of the cupola, allowing visitors to see wind direction when inside the great hall. It must have been an unreliable and troublesome device because it appears to have been removed in the mid-19th century. Sadly no drawings of the dial survive and now only the surviving paintings on the dome bear witness to its ingenious function.

The conservation team during the Painted Hall Project

The Conservation team

This week our sole conservator Francesco has been joined by two more Italians, Valentina and Stefania (pictured), who are now hard at work, atop the Vestibule scaffolding. The surface of the painted winds has suffered much from the effects of condensation which has caused the varnish to blanch giving the surface a speckled appearance. After cleaning, the vanish will be treated to reduce these blemishes, giving the gods and the clouds, which form their swirling backdrop, renewed freshness and vigour.

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