The Center Magazine
Buy Tickets
Back to Stories

The Christmas Angels

By Karen HudesDec 7 2017

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is always magnificent, but the 12 luminous angels that line the Channel Gardens during the holidays add that touch of splendor that completes the scene. Created by the English artist Valerie Clarebout, the figures debuted in 1955—following iterations that included snowmen, forest creatures and jack-in-the-boxes—and became an annual presence beginning in 1975.

Born in the early 1900s, Clarebout studied at the Royal Academy of Art in London and Julien Studio in Paris, and moved to the U.S. in 1952. Rockefeller Center architect Robert Carson soon hired the inventive sculptor to design angels for the Plaza, which she crafted from 18 miles of aluminum wire and brass, along with miniature lights. She went on to produce other collections (one of them comprised of 72 animals and four eight-foot-tall trees), and finally made the angels we see today, working in her Fairfield, Connecticut, studio, using 75 pounds of wire to build each eight-foot-tall, winged, robed and haloed figure (76 miles of material for the whole display). Each of the angels, arranged to face each other along the Channel Gardens, holds a six-foot brass trumpet, angled toward the Christmas Tree and heralding the holiday season.

A year before passing away in 1982, Clarebout told the New York Times about the angels: "I love them. I love this time of year. Since I was a child I had a tremendous feeling for Christmas quite apart from a religious holiday. I used to lie on the ground and I thought I could feel the earth being reborn. That's how I always thought of Christmas—as the rebirth of the earth. And now, of course, every year I think of it as bringing the angels back to life."

See Clarebout creating her sculptures in the studio, as well as images of the angels in recent years, in the slideshow above.

Share this Story:
Back to all Stories

Recent

Events

The (Virtual) Lighting Before Christmas

Winter in New York is different this year, but the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will still light up Midtown—and your living room.

Arts & Culture

Why We Skate

Ice skating has brought New Yorkers together for decades, even in tough times. The opening of Rockefeller Center’s iconic skating rink is proof that fortunately, some things never change.

The Center Newsletter

Need more information on Top of the Rock? Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor.

Learn More

Share your experience.

Use #RainbowRoom, #RainbowRoomNYC, #BarSixtyFive, or #RockEats.
Loading...
Sign up for our newsletter
Subscribe Now
Follow Us
Download the App
Only Here
Top of the Rock
Plan Your VisitMap & DirectionsContact UsGift ShopFAQs
45 ROCKEFELLER PLAZA NEW YORK, NY 10111
212.588.8601
1.877.NYC.ROCK
© Rockefeller Center 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED