Stained Glass Museum purchases rare medieval angel panels at auction

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Orders of Angels: The Virtues and the Principalities

Two late 15th century stained glass panels (English), 154mm x 178mm. (ELYGM:2015.7.1, ELYGM:2015.7.2)

The Stained Glass Museum, Ely, has purchased two rare medieval angel stained glass panels at auction with the help of the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Art Fund. The panels were made in England in the 15th century and show two groups of angels, the ‘Virtues’ and ‘Principalities’, from the nine orders of angels, a popular subject in medieval art and literature. According to medieval theologians, the ‘Principalities’ governed mankind’s provinces, and the ‘Virtues’ were associated with miracles. Both stained glass panels depict a group of three standing angels dressed in white robes with two golden wings, golden hair and white haloes. Each group of angelic figures is accompanied by a Latin inscription which may have been taken from medieval liturgical manuscripts relating to the feast of Archangel St Michael, celebrated on 29 September.

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Illustrations of the Orders of the Angels can be found in medieval illuminated manuscripts, panel and wall painting, sculpture and stained glass. Yet only five complete (or almost complete) 15th century series of the Orders of the Angels survive in situ in stained glass in England. The panels acquired by the Museum are in excellent condition. These stained glass panels were removed from Ulverscroft Manor, a house in Leicestershire which was built for Thomas Pares (1790-1866). It is not known where the stained glass panels originally came from, or when they were installed in the house, but they were likely part of a set. The panels were recently rediscovered by the present owners of the building, the Shuttlewood-Clarke Foundation.

The panels were purchased from the Sale at Bonhams Auction House, London, on 18 November 2015.

They will be placed on permanent display at The Stained Glass Museum in January 2016.