September 2010

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) launches a new character actor Sir James Thornhill, the creator of the interior of the Painted Hall, on 7th November 2010.

Each year over 300,000 visitors visit the magnificent Painted Hall at the ORNC and are inspired by its amazing decorated interior.  Now, visitors can experience the Painted Hall, often called ‘the finest dining room in Europe’, through the eyes of its creator, Sir James Thornhill.

This new performance charts the story behind the creation of the Painted Hall, and gives an insight into Thornhill’s inspirations, designs and techniques but also highlights his fierce patriotism, his bitter rivalries and last but not least, his love of fine wine and dining.  The script has been developed in partnership with Spectrum Drama.

The first English artist to receive a knighthood, Sir James Thornhill was commissioned in 1707 to decorate the then plain interior of the hall originally intended as a dining space for the retired sailors who lived at the Royal Hospital for Seamen (now called the Old Royal Naval College).

It took him nineteen years to complete his decorations with ‘540 yards of history and figures’, which feature the Hospital’s royal patrons and the importance of the Navy to the fortunes of the nation.  For this ‘great and laborious undertaking, as he himself called it, Thornhill was paid just £3 per square yard for the ceiling and £1 for the walls, and considered himself very poorly rewarded.

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