Rubens' ceiling

A unique masterpiece from the golden age of painting

A unique masterpiece from the golden age of painting

Updated 12 June. As a result of the Coronavirus global pandemic, we have taken the difficult decision to close Banqueting House until March 2021. We apologise for any disappointment this may cause. Please read our statement

When

Closed


Important information


Included in palace admission (members go free)

Buy Banqueting House tickets

The ceiling of the Banqueting House is the only surviving in-situ ceiling painting by Flemish artist, Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

The canvases were 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.

The ceiling was probably commissioned by Charles I in 1629-30. It was one of the King's last sights before his execution on a scaffold outside the Banqueting Hall in 1649.

The genius of Rubens' ceiling

Rubens was not deterred by the large scale of his commission. In a 1621 letter to James I's agent, he wrote, 'I confess that I am, by natural instinct, better fitted to execute very large works than small curiosities.'

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).

When the canvases were first unrolled on the floor, Inigo Jones and Rubens' assistants realised with mounting horror that they were too big to fit in the ceiling.

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.

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.

The Union of the Crowns -The Banqueting House ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens

Preserving the ceiling for years to come

Follow our conservators as they examine Rubens' ceiling during conservation work completed in 2018 in this short film.

Still from the Gigapixel app at Banqueting House, which displays the Rubens ceiling in super close-up detail using new Gigapixel super-zoom technology. Showing close-up of The Apotheosis of James I
Things to see

Get an artists' eye view of Rubens' ceiling, down to the level of individual brush strokes added during its creation in the 17th century.

Closed

Banqueting House

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Aerial view of a formal garden with green lawns on either side of a main path running towards the baroque palace. A fountain runs in the foreground at the centre of the path
Things to see

Take time to explore and relax in these world-renowned gardens without the usual crowds.

Open

Hampton Court Palace

Included in all admission tickets (members go free)

The Kitchen Garden at Hampton Court Palace under a bright blue sky. Showing varieties of planting in the foreground and the Tudor palace in the background
Things to see

Experience the recreated Kitchen Garden, which would have fed the Georgian royals and now supplies Henry VIII's Kitchens.

Closed

Hampton Court Palace

Free

Royal Palace Crest fine bone china tankard (30167796), Royal Palace Crest fine bone china bonbon dish (30167799), Royal Palace Crest fine bone china 17cm plate (30167801), Royal Palace Crest fine bone china 21cm plate (30170352), Royal Palace Crest fine bone china tea cup and saucer (30167797)

Shop Banqueting House Gifts

Our wonderful collection of gifts and souvenirs are all inspired by the Banqueting House.

From £5.99

Palace China Collection, serviettes and cake stand.  Design inspired by the palaces in our care; delicate details taken from the rose gardens at Hampton Court Palace, the famous gates at Kensington Palace and the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.   'Tea Fit for a Queen' book - reciipes and drinks for afternoon tea.  Lifestyle

Shop HRP Books & Publications

Discover books inspired by the palaces in our care, learn about fascinating periods of British history, including our official palace guide books, children's books and more.

From £10.99

Historic Royal Palaces retail product - drinking glasses, books and deer cushion

Shop homewares

In our home section you will find stylish lifestyle home accessories and furnishings, including cushions, tapestries, ornaments and much more which will add those finishing touches to make your room complete.

From £9.99