Thursday 17 May 2018

Henry VI Stone Sculpture in the Chapel at All Souls College, Oxford

The Sculpture in the Codrington Library
All Souls College, Oxford.

Part 30.

The Sculpture in the Chapel 
at All Souls College.

The Life Size Stone Statue of Henry VI (1421 - 71).
Co founder of All Souls with Archbishop Henry Chichele.

Attributed by Howard Colvin to John Massyingham.

Although there is no direct evidence -

The 'Great Stone statues' which were over the high alter in the Chapel at All Souls were specifically stated to have been the work of Massyngham. This array of Saints in the niches of the East wall of the chapel were destroyed in the reformation.

The All Souls statues are cut from stone from a quarry either at Burford or Taynton, Oxfordshire.

For more on Massyingham and the building of All Souls see - Historical Essays in Honour of James Tait, Manchester University Press, Page 121, The Building of All Souls College, 1438 - 1443 - E.F. Jacob - annoyingly some of this essay is missing online.

 - For the excerpts available on line see -


see also, for a very good overview - All Souls, An Oxford College and its Buildings, Howard Colvin & J.S.G. Simmons, Oxford University Press. 1989. (not available on line).


Birds eye view of All Souls College, Oxford, looking North
Prior to the construction of the Codrington Library began in 1716.
from Oxonia Illustrata.
David Loggan.

Image from Victoria and Albert Museum.

Clearly showing the statues of Archbishop Henry Chichele (on the right) and King Henry VI in the niches above the main gate.


Excerpt below adapted from British History online -

On the south face there are three niches. The history of the figures which filled these niches is mysterious. In the Typus the niches appear empty, but in 1633 'the three statues over our gates of our Saviour, of King Henry the sixt and our founder were … polished, smothed and renewed with varnishe and guilt as formerly they had beene'.

How the medieval figures survived the Reformation is suggested by the following entry in the Computus Roll of 1548 (rep. infra), 'pro clavi et reparacione sere ostii domus in qua imagines reponebantur'.

 In 1642 the Parliamentarian soldiers 'discharged at the image of our Saviour over All Soules gate and would have defaced all the worke there had it not byn for some townesmen who entreated them to forbeare'. Loggan shows the big central niche, where our Saviour had stood, empty save for the souls at its foot, but the two lower niches filled by statues.

The 18th-and early-19th-century views do the same. The angel and souls in the upper niche were 'reworked in Bath stone' in the restoration of 1826–7, and the two lower figures were 'repaired and cleaned' at the same time.

The niches were recarved and the statues replaced by modern sculptures by Mr. W. C. H. King in 1939–40


All photographs taken by the author

Henry VI
Engraving 61 x 38 cms.
Francesco Bartolozzi (1721 - 1815).

From a drawing by John Keyse Sherwin

This print was made in 1772 and its frame was added slightly later. The print combines two techniques - etching and engraving. Both involved creating a pattern of grooves to hold ink in a metal printing plate. The etched lines were made using acid, while the engraved lines were scored by means of a sharp tool called a burin. The grooves were then filled with ink and the image was transferred onto a blank sheet of paper.

Subjects DepictedIn 1438 Henry VI co-founded All Souls College at Oxford. Francesco Bartolozzi based this depiction of the patron on an 18th-century drawing, which in turn recorded a stained glass window at the College. An auction catalogue of 1842 mentions the print: 'HENRICUS VI., REX, various of, by Vertue, Bretherton, Faber and Bartolozzi, the latter a whole length, from a splendid fenestral painting in All Souls College, Oxford'.

This print and its pair (museum no. W.97:1-2-1978) are thought to have originally belonged to the writer and collector Horace Walpole (1717-97) and to have hung in his Gothic-revival house at Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham in Middlesex. The style of the frame, with an inner Gothic arch and stylised flowers in the upper corners, would have fitted in well with the house's decoration. Both prints were sold in 1842, when the house contents were auctioned. After this the prints were for some time at Brookhill Hall in Nottinghamshire, before being spotted by a curator in an antique shop near the V&A, when they were bought by the Museum.

Info copied from the Vand A website.


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