1 of 35 portraits of Thomas Wolsey
by Unknown artist
oil on panel, late 16th century (circa 1520)
33 in. x 22 in. (838 mm x 559 mm) arched top
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- Thomas Wolsey (1470 or 1471-1530), Cardinal and statesman. Sitter associated with 35 portraits.
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'Of vast ability and indefatigable', this butcher's son rose to become Cardinal and, in 1515, Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor. This portrait shows Wolsey at the height of his power. Wearing the scarlet robes of a cardinal, in one hand he grips a staff topped by a crown and in the other he holds a piece of paper. These attributes serve to indicate that he is both the king's servant and a man of business. This is the only known contemporary painted portrait of Wolsey; it may be that other portraits were destroyed after his fall from the king's favour in 1529 for having failed to obtain Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.