A rare chance to get a close-up look at London’s largest painted ceiling in Greenwich is now on offer.

Tours of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College have been launched with visitors invited to ascend 60 feet and study the masterpiece.

Described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’ the walls and ceilings painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726 are the lavish centrepiece of the College designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

They will undergoing a £8.5 million restoration project over the next two years including the creation of a new visitor centre, Sackler Gallery and café developed by Hugh Broughton Architects.

The 60 minute ceiling tours will see guests taken to a special observation where they can watch the work taking place and discover the stories depicted in the 40,000 square feet of paintings.

Considered to be the greatest Baroque decorative scheme in England, the artwork tells the story of British maritime power at the beginning of the 18th century through more than 200 figures.

Conservation director William Palin said: “The Painted Hall is one of Britain’s greatest architectural and artistic treasures, and this project aims to raise it to the national and international prominence it deserves.

“This is a wonderful chance for people to see world-class conservators at work and watch the transformation take place over the next two years.”

The project has been made possible through £1 million of funds from The Gosling Foundation, £3.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a crowdfunding campaign hosted by Art Fund which raised over £22,000 to conserve the proscenium arch.

A further £2 million is necessary to complete the project.

A programme of public engagement will run alongside the tours to celebrate every element of the Painted Hall and its history.

Tours run daily from 10am – 5pm (last admission 4pm) adult ticket £10, child ticket (aged 6 – 17) £5.

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