Thomas Wolsey

1 portrait on display in Room 1 at the National Portrait Gallery

Thomas Wolsey, by Unknown artist, late 16th century (circa 1520) - NPG 32 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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
Purchased, 1858
Primary Collection
NPG 32

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  • Thomas Wolsey (1470 or 1471-1530), Cardinal and statesman. Sitter associated with 36 portraits.

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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.

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