In 1830 Davis made a number of sketches at Greenwich. The Painted Hall, now the Old Royal Naval College, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and decorated with magnificent trompe l'oeil paintings by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) between 1708 and 1727. Three months after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Lord Nelson's body was brought to Greenwich to lie in state for three days before being transported to St Paul's Cathedral for a state funeral. Having been intended as a dining hall for the naval pensioners, it was deemed too grand for that purpose and in 1824 became the National Gallery of Naval Art.
The present drawing, depicting a number of pensioners passing through the Hall, is of great historical significance as it shows the Gallery in its early form, with the paintings hung between the pilasters. On either side of the drawing, Davis has faithfully depicted the two paintings that hung in those spaces following their gift (with other works) to the Gallery by King George IV: on the left, J.M.W. Turner's Trafalgar (1822-3); and on the right, De Loutherbourg's Lord Howe's Victory (1795). In 1831 Davis exhibited his large oil painting The Painted Hall, Greenwich at the British Institution (no. 153, and possibly lot 88 in the sale of John Hinxman's collection in these Rooms, 25 March 1848).
We are grateful to Pieter van der Merwe of the National Maritime Museum, London, for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.
See lot 120 for a watercolour of St Eustache, Paris by Davis and information on John Hinxman and his collection.