Conservation of the Wolsey Angels

Diana Heath, Senior Metals Conservator at the V&A, describes the challenges of treating the Wolsey Angels – rare examples of copper figures created for the English Tudor court at the height of the Renaissance, between 1524 and 1529.

The Wolsey Angels were made by the Italian sculptor, Benedetto da Rovezzano (1474 – 1554), to adorn a magnificent tomb commissioned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. After the English Civil War, the Angels disappeared, and were only recently rediscovered, having stood unrecognised on the gateposts of a stately home in Northamptonshire.

Not originally intended for outdoor exposure, their surfaces have altered radically over time. The separation of each pair of Angels accounts for their difference in appearance, together with the loss of their wings. Extensive conservation work at the V&A has now enlivened the appearance of the Angels and ensured their future preservation.

The Wolsey Angels were purchased with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, a gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden, the Friends of the V&A, the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, the American Friends of the V&A, and many other generous donors thanks to a major public appeal in 2014.