Just over a year ago, the National Gallery (NG) in London presented a then recently acquired self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi. Its debut was dubbed an ‘early Christmas present to the nation.’ This year, the NG has announced another early Christmas present. Yesterday, the museum announced that The Finding of Moses, a 1630s painting by Gentileschi’s father Orazio Gentileschi, has officially joined the NG’s collection.
If you thought you remembered The Finding of Moses already being a part of the NG’s collection, you aren’t necessarily wrong. For more than 15 years, the painting has been on a long-term loan to the museum where it has been on display. The museum finally raised the funds to purchase the large-scale painting for £22 million (although after tax advantages of the type of sale negotiated by Sotheby’s and Pyms Gallery in London, the total was brought down to £19.5 million). The NG specifically thanked the public for their donations that went towards the purchase.
In November, the NG turned to the public in an effort to raise the final £2 million and that campaign was a huge success. ‘From the small gifts of a few pounds to those of many thousands, I am really thrilled that so many people have contributed in the last lap of the campaign to enable us to acquire the painting for the nation,’ said Gabriele Finaldi, director of the NG. ‘Big donors and little ones have ensured that The Finding of Moses can be enjoyed by all. Our thanks to all of them.’
£8.5 million were contributed to the purchase of the work by the American Friends of the National Gallery, £5 million by the National Gallery Trust, £2.5 million by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £2 million by public donations, £1 million by the Art Fund, and £500,000 by willed gifts. Now, the painting belongs to the NG and will remain on display permanently.
In 1995, the NG missed their chance to purchase the elder Gentileschi’s work when it came up at auction. The museum tried to secure a winning bid but were outdone by Graham Kirkham, a sofa billionaire, who snagged The Finding of Moses for a mere £43,300. The painting was then quickly loaned to the National Galleries of Scotland and the J. Paul Getty Museum. It then travelled to London in 2002 where it went on loan to the NG, where it has remained through now.
Gentileschi, whose daughter would eventually eclipse him as a painter, created The Finding of Moses, which Finalidi called ‘a very English painting,’ while serving as court painter for King Charles I. It was painted in celebration of the future King Charles II’s birth. The painting remained in the royal collection until the fall of the British monarchy in 1649. It was then gifted to the Duke of Orléans by Henrietta Marie, the late king’s wife, after the Restoration. It was sold to Castle Howard in England in 1798 along with a large portion of the Orléans collection. It remained with the Howard family for nearly two centuries before its 1995 sale.
‘It is great news as we come up to Christmas that this picture will be ours from early next year,’ Finaldi, told The Guardian. ‘We are absolutely thrilled.’