It is one of the biggest conservation projects in Europe and Britain's largest painted ceiling by British artist Sir James Thornhill, who undertook the work from 1707 - 1726.
We took the painted hall ceiling tour at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich to get up close to the work that is being undetaken by a team of conservators.
Architect Nicholas Hawksmoor designed the hall of the Royal building as a grand dining room for the Naval pensioners. Little known artist Thornhill took on the work as his first major commission, negotiating a fee of £1 per square yard for the walls and £3 per square yard for the ceilings. Athough this sounds like a good fee for the 17th Century, Thornhill would take 19 years to complete the work. (If only he had had a public art consultancy to negotiate his daily rate). Over this period he would have to rethink the design several times due to the changing political landscape. Thornhill appears in the painting, pointing to his work.
Our guide Marilyn led the group up the scaffolding 60 feet from floor level to an observation platform, where we could see at first hand the work being undertaken to restore this magnificent painting. The rich colour and vibrancy is evident from the restored areas that have been affected by smoke and dirt. It will take the conservationists over 2 years to clean with the project due to complete in 2019. It is thought that it should not need any further intervention for the next 100 years.
Here are a few highlights:
The conservationists palatte Sir James Thornhill