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Rubens’ ceiling

A masterpiece from the golden age of painting

A masterpiece from the golden age of painting

When

  • Open daily

Important info

Included in palace admission

A truly unique masterpiece.

The ceiling of the Banqueting House is a masterpiece and the only surviving in-situ ceiling painting by Flemish artist, Sir Peter Paul Rubens. It is also one of the most famous works from the golden age of painting.

The canvases were painted by Rubens and installed in the hall in 1636. The three main canvasses depict The Union of the Crowns, The Apotheosis of James I and The Peaceful Reign of James I.

Most likely commissioned by Charles I in 1629-30, this ceiling was one of his last sights before he lost his head. The King was executed on a scaffold outside on Whitehall in 1649.

The genius of Rubens' ceiling

‘I confess that I am, by natural instinct, better fitted to execute very large works than small curiosities.’  - Rubens in a 1621 letter to James I’s agent was not deterred by the large scale of the commission.

Indeed, the ceiling canvasses are large - individually, two of them measure 28 x 20ft (approximately 9 x 6m) and two others measure 40 x 10ft (approximately 13 x 3m).

An immeasurable problem

When the canvases were first unrolled on the floor, Inigo Jones and Rubens’ assistants realised with mounting horror that they wouldn’t fit in the ceiling.

The problem had occurred because although both Belgium and England measured in feet and inches, each country used a different length for a foot. Drastic moderations had to be made on site to make them fit.

Artist not in residence

It appears that Rubens never saw his works inside the Banqueting House. He wrote to a friend, 'In as much as I have a horror of courts, I sent my work to England in the hands of someone else.'

After an initial two-year delay, Rubens received £3,000 (the equivalent of £218,000 today) and a heavy gold chain as payment for his work.

Explore what's on

The South Front and Privy Garden, looking north west across the fountain basin.

Explore the Privy Garden at Hampton Court, now restored to its former glory. The garden features the sumptuously intricate Tijou Screen.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Things to see
Fountain Court, looking west. The courtyard fountain can just be seen through an archway on the left.

Get an expert’s guide of what there is to see and do at each palace with one of our State Apartment Warders at Hampton Court.

25 November and 21 December 2017. 20 January, 08 February and 10 March 2018

Hampton Court Palace

Member only Tours and talks

Tours begin at 11:00 and 14:00

View through the Mantegna Gallery room

One of the most famous collections of paintings in the history of European art, The Triumphs of Caesar remains on permanent display in the Mantegna Gallery at Hampton Court Palace.

The Mantegna Gallery is closed

Hampton Court Palace

Things to see

Browse more history and stories

Inspired by the delft ceramic collection of Queen Mary, this fine bone china tea for one set is perfect for afternoon tea.

Queen Mary delft bone china tea for one

The design of this tea for one set is inspired by the ceramic collection of Queen Mary II, a keen collector of Chinese porcelain and Delftware.

£75.00

Exquisite tea light holders in fine bone china, inspired by the ceramic collection of Queen Mary II.

The Triumph of Delft tea light holder

Exquisite tea light holders in fine bone china, inspired by the ceramic collection of Queen Mary II.

£50.00