Virtual Tour of the Painted Hall

You can now see James Thornhill's magnificient ceiling on a new virtual tour of the Painted Hall, Greenwich. Peter Gray reports.

The Painted Hall at Greenwich has one of the most magnificent ceilings in Europe, but viewing the thing can give even the most flexible a serious case of neckache. Thankfully, that’s not the case with this brilliant virtual tour.

The Painted Hall has been reproduced here using a series of breathtaking 360 degree images, with viewers able to zoom in and out; look up, down and around; or click an arrow to move to another room.

The best thing about the tour, however, is the splendid commentary from British actress Tara Fitzgerald (Game of Thrones). Fitzgerald is clear, informative, and engaging, and her voice is like gravel spread with honey. 

The tour takes us from the magnificent entrance vestibule, with its spectacular domed ceiling, to the grandeur of the Painted Hall and its celebrated ceiling legendary ceiling, to the much more intimate Upper Hall, with its magnificent mural celebrating the Hanoverian dynasty.

The building was part of the wider Royal Hospital project, built by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century. Once complete, acclaimed English Painter Sir James Thornhill was commissioned to decorate the Painted Hall.

Instead of a flat fee, Thornhill was paid a fee for each yard he completed, a pricing scheme that would eventually netted the artist the tidy sum of £6685. In total, the artist completed over 40,000 square feet of painting at the hall, a staggering achievement which took over 19 years to complete.

The result is one of the great masterpieces of Baroque art, and one that makes great use of the then popular trompe l’oeil technique. The style, which had become popular in turn of the century Paris, used illusionistic techniques to trick and decieve the eye. There are few finer examples of the style than at Greenwich, with Thonhill using the technique throughout the building. 

The Royal Naval College’s Virtual Tour of the Painted Hall offers viewers an excellent way to get acquainted with James Thornhill’s Baroque masterpiece. The tour benefits from an excellent commentary, breathtakingly detailed images, and an easy to use user interface. If the tour cannot quite match the immersiveness of a real life tour, it is nevertheless probably about as close as you are going to get.

You can access the virtual tour of the painted hall here.

For information on other cool virtual tours, please click here.

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What: virtual tour
When: on now
Where: online