This fragment is a remarkable survival from the early nineteenth-century renovations of Windsor Castle overseen by Sir Jeffry Wyatville at the request of George IV, whose aim it was to re-Gothicise and romanticise the exterior of the Castle and to enrich the interiors in a new national – and extremely luxurious – style. Charles II's campaign with his architect Hugh May of the late 1670s and early 1680s similarly swept away the medieval and Tudor interiors, those laid out by Edward III in the fourteenth century, and replaced them with a new, confident baroque style, very much indebted to Italian and French models.
The ceiling was the focal point of St George's Hall – where the subject was The Apotheosis of Charles II. Charles is depicted in his Garter robes and periwig, and crowned with laurel in the Roman manner. His likeness, painted here to be viewed from approximately nine metres below, may be derived from John Riley's portrait of c.1681. A drawing of the entire ceiling made around 1805 by John Francis Rigaud, records the disposition of the figures, but is not detailed enough to allow full interpretation of the complex iconographic scheme, though a description and accompanying interpretation of Verrio's tour de force was published by the Christ Church scholar and Doctor of Divinity Thomas Spark as 'Aula Vindesoria, D. Georgio Instaurata' in Musarum Anglicanarum. At either side of the central oval the Garter Star (eastern end) and Collar of the Order (western, or Chapel end) were depicted centrally, at great scale and surrounded by putti and figures. Rigaud's drawing of the ceiling and wall decoration in St George's Hall included only one of the two octagon panels.
Text adapted from Charles II: Art and Power (2017).