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"An Air of Grandeur & Modesty": James Thornhill's Painting in the Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral

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Publication details

JournalEighteenth Century Studies
DatePublished - 2009
Issue number4
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)501-527
Original languageEnglish


James Thornhill's eight New Testament scenes in the inner dome of St. Paul's Cathedral constitute one of the most ambitious displays of painting in British art. However, the scheme's "decorative" associations mean that it has consistently fallen between two disciplines—disliked by architectural historians and overlooked by historians of eighteenth-century painting in equal measure. Combining previously unpublished documentary evidence with a fresh analysis of Thornhill's painting, this essay proposes a new understanding of the later stages in the rebuilding and decoration of St. Paul's, and points to the pictorial sophistication behind the apparent simplicity of the artist's designs.

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