We are now in the last 100 days of the Painted Hall Ceiling tours at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
This once-in-a-lifetime chance to get within touching distance of one of the most spectacular Baroque interiors in Europe comes to an end on September 30, and will not be available again for at least 100 years.
A special acrobatic performance by Camiel marked 100 days on June 23.
The National Lottery-funded Painted Hall project, to conserve the ceiling, has been running for two years.
During this time the Painted Hall observation deck has been allowing visitors the opportunity to see the masterpiece at close quarters and to observe the conservators at work.
The conservators, led by Stephen Paine and Sophie Stewart, have been systematically cleaning and conserving around 40,000sqft of the painted surface on the ceilings and walls, bringing new life and vibrancy to paintings obscured by decades of decay.
The Painted Hall was decorated by Sir James Thornhill, the first British artist to be knighted. It is the lavish centrepiece of the Old Royal Naval College, founded in 1694 by Mary II and designed by Christopher Wren.
The ceiling was painted between 1707 and 1726, and celebrates Britain’s maritime power. It uses a cast of hundreds of figures – historical, mythological, allegorical and contemporary – and features successive monarchs William III and Mary II, Anne and George I.
It is considered the greatest Baroque decorative scheme in the UK, its triumphant scenes framed by painted architectural elements to trick the eye.
Thornhill’s work subsequently won him important commissions at St Paul’s Cathedral and Blenheim Palace.
As well as the conservation work in the Hall itself, the Undercroft space below has been undergoing a major transformation, with the creation of a new visitor centre, interpretation gallery and café, designed by Hugh Broughton Architects.
The new developments will open to the public in early 2019. Alongside the conservation work, a programme of public engagement has been celebrating every element of the Painted Hall and its history – promoting skills, dialogue, and independent discovery in the exploration of the universal stories and timeless themes of Sir James Thornhill’s paintings.
Angela McConville, Chief Executive of the Old Royal Naval College, said: “The experience of being within inches of this inspiring masterpiece is incredible, and not to be missed.
“This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and something that all lovers of art, architecture, history and culture should experience.”