Figure studies for the west wall of the Painted Hall (second project)

This is one of the most fluid and conceptual surviving sketches for the Painted Hall and shows Thornhill resolving the arrangement of both royal and allegorical figures on the west wall in a receding serpentine. The king is seated holding out his right arm, lower right, with his eldest grandson, Prince Frederick (then heir presumptive), standing beside him. The grouping, especially of the royal family around the king, was much further but the pyramid symbolizing dynastic stability, and Astrea, symbol of justice (holding a sword and part of a balance) are now in their final places.

Thornhill has taken liberties with the depiction of Prince Frederick (born 1707). The son of the Prince of Wales was, according to the artist's marginal notes, aged 16 at the time of the drawings execution, but he is shown here as a small boy at his grandfathers knee. The family grouping surrounding George I has two prototypes: the west wall of St George's Hall by godfrey Kneller and the north wall of the painted stair at Hampton Court by Antonio Verrio. Despite the care Thornhill evidently took in inventing and resolving the west wall's composition, he had only partial involvement in its execution. According to Thornhill's son-in-law William Hogarth, the royal group was painted by the artist Dietrich Andreae whom he described as 'a Polander'. The skecth's verso inscription offers a charming insight into the more practical aspects of the commission.

It bears inscriptions in ink by Thornhill and two others in pencil. Down the right-hand side he has listed figures for inclusion in the composition, and some of their ages:
'[Princess] Sophia / Q[ueen of] Prussia/ Pr[ince] Frederick -aet [i.e. aged]-16 / Pr[incess] Anne - aet - 13 /Pr[incess]Amelia -aet-11/Pr[incess] Ele[anora]: Carolina - 9 /Pr[ince] William Augustus - 2'

Then in more summary fashion are his abbreviations 'JTh.' (which a later hand has identified to the left in pencil as 'Sir Jas Thornhill'), and others, so-far inexplicable: 'Mah., Mast., v/r, E. Smy.'. The last may in some cases refer to allegorical figures. Half-way down the left hand edge of the drawing is a partly cut-off pencil inscription possibly in Thornhill's hand, reading '... upper Hall'.

On the reverse, in Thornhill's hand and beside more figure sketches in both graphite and ink, are jotted names (in graphite) and, in ink, what appears to be a list of pigments (including ' vermilion') and their prices.

Watermark: Pro Patria
Collector's mark: RMW (Sir Robert Witt)

Object Details

ID: PAH3344
Collection: Fine art
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Thornhill, James
Places: Unlinked place
Date made: 1723
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Sheet: 296 mm x 190 mm. Mount: 25 in x 19 in

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