The walls of the King's Staircase were painted by William Kent as a vivid recreation of George I’s court. The artwork depicts a lively 18th-century court full of intriguing and unexpected characters.
In Georgian times, visitors to court could only enter if their clothes and jewels passed muster with the guards.
Some of the guards in their red uniforms stand among the figures of the arcade painted on the walls, many of them identifiable as members of the royal court.
The staircase paintings were completed by Kent in 1724 and replaced rather more plain wooden panelling installed by Sir Christopher Wren.
Kent included a picture of himself in the painting. He is on the ceiling with his mistress at his shoulder, wearing a brown turban and holding an artist's palette.
Along with the Yeomen of the Guard, Kent’s painting includes the King’s Polish page Ulric and the King’s Turkish servants Mahomet and Mustapha. It also includes Peter ‘the wild boy’, a feral child found in the woods in Germany.
The imaginary architecture of the staircase painting was inspired by work that Kent had seen in the palaces of Rome where he trained.
The painted figure of Diana on the top landing is a copy of a real antique statue. The original is at Holkham Hall in Norfolk.
Come to Kensington Palace to explore the lives of three German princesses, whose marriage into the British royal family and wide-ranging interests placed them at the very heart of the enlightenment underway in 18th century Britain.
22 June - 12 November 2017