December 2013

In 1714, George I sailed up the Thames and alighted in Greenwich to claim the British throne. The 300th anniversary of his accession and the start of the Hanoverian dynasty will be celebrated next year. While George I’s grand entrance is captured on the north wall of the Painted Hall, and is available to view at all times of the year, the statue of his son, George II, in the Grand Square of the Old Royal Naval College is retiring for the winter.

The statue was designed by Michael Rysbrack in 1735, commissioned as an attempt to persuade George II to bestow financial support on the Royal Hospital for Seamen. It was sculpted out of a single piece of marble weighing 11 tons.

It has become increasingly fragile due to air pollutants and erosion, and as a result of weathering and frost damage, areas of the statue have worn smooth and accumulated a layer of black crust.

In addition to the degradation wrought by the passage of time, the statue of George II has also suffered the indignity of student hijinks. Prior to the closure of the Royal Naval College in 1998, George II’s face was painted as a student prank. The ensuing restoration involved harsh chemicals, causing additional erosion.

In order to minimise further deterioration, the statue is now wrapped in an insulating layer throughout the colder months, protecting the figure from the extremities of the British winter. 

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