Four bronze statues of angels designed for the tomb of Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s personal adviser, are to be purchased by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).
The museum has raised the £5 million required to buy the angels commissioned in 1524 to decorate the tomb of the cardinal, who famously failed to convince Pope Clement VII to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
This failure is widely perceived to have led to Cardinal Wolsey falling out of favour with the king. The cardinal’s story is currently being dramatised in the BBC series Wolf Hall, based on the novel by Hilary Mantel.
Martin Roth, director of the V&A, said: “The Wolsey Angels are a vital part of our national history and artistic heritage. We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to our fundraising appeal to ensure these outstanding sculptures, which were thought to be lost, are reunited and preserved at the V&A for future generations.”
The angels, each around a metre tall, were created between 1524-1529 by Florentine sculptor Benedetto da Rovezzano, a contemporary of Michelangelo. Upon Wolsey’s death in 1530, they were appropriated by Henry for use on his own tomb, which was never completed.
The angels were presumed lost until two appeared at auction in 1994. The other pair were discovered in 2008 at Harrowden Hall in Northamptonshire. They were brought together at the museum during the duration of the fundraising drive.