National Gallery launches public appeal to save Orazio Gentileschi's The Finding of Moses

The Finding of Moses by Orazio Gentileschi

The Finding of Moses by Orazio Gentileschi

The National Gallery is asking for the public's help to raise the last £2 million it needs to buy a painting of outstanding importance for the national heritage - The Finding of Moses by Orazio Gentileschi (early 1630's) - and enable the work to stay on free public display in Trafalgar Square and continue to inspire future generations.

The Finding of Moses has a remarkable place in British history. It is one of just a handful of works painted during Orazio Gentileschi's 12-year residence in London at the court of King Charles I, commissioned to celebrate the birth of the future Charles II and intended to hang in the Queen's House at Greenwich. There is currently only one Orazio Gentileschi work in a UK public collection, and The Finding of Moses plays an important role in the National Gallery, being intrinsically linked to our recently acquired painting by Orazio's daughter Artemisia (Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria).

The Finding of Moses has been on generous long-term loan to the National Gallery from a private collection for almost twenty years - so long that many people assume it already forms part of the national collection. It has been the subject of talks, exhibitions, publications and educational activities, and is a focal point of the Italian Baroque gallery where it is displayed alongside masterpieces by artists such as Caravaggio and Guido Reni.

The beauty and refinement of The Finding of Moses are characteristic of the artist's late style, but it is the painting's monumental scale (measuring 257 x 301cm), extraordinary ambition and historical importance that sets The Finding of Moses apart.

The painting has been an acquisition priority for the National Gallery since 1995, when we first attempted to buy it, and we have until the end of the year to purchase The Finding of Moses. If we are unable to buy the painting, it may be lost to the nation.

The full cost of The Finding of Moses is £22 million; however, the net cost to the National Gallery is £19,471,340 by a private treaty sale arranged through Sotheby's and Pyms Gallery.

As a charity, the National Gallery depends upon public generosity to help it achieve great things and so is working hard to raise the money required to buy The Finding of Moses for the nation.

We are enormously grateful for exceptional grants of £2.5 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £1 million from Art Fund which have already been secured.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, said: "The Finding of Moses is one of the National Gallery's most precious long-term loans and its prospective sale provides the Gallery with an important opportunity. My trustees have committed £1m, one of our largest grants to date, towards the acquisition and we hope that other funders and members of the public will feel as strongly about playing a part - big or small - in saving this masterpiece for everyone to enjoy in the national collection."

£8.5 million is coming from The American Friends of the National Gallery, London with £5 million from The National Gallery Trust.

A further £500,000 of gifts left in wills left to the National Gallery is also being used towards the acquisition.

This leaves £2 million the Gallery needs to raise from individuals, trusts, and our public to ensure The Finding of Moses remains on free display for future generations to enjoy.

Launching the #SaveOrazio Appeal by hosting The Finding of Moses storytelling session with a group of children from the Soho Family Centre, National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said: "If the National Gallery succeeds in buying the painting, it will be here for everyone to enjoy for generations to come. The Finding of Moses will have found its definitive audience among the nation's pictures."

Donations to the National Gallery's Orazio Gentileschi appeal can be made in the following ways:

- Online at

- Over the telephone on 020 7747 5982

- Via cheque to Freepost RTLK-HERE-JSKB, Ms Stéphanie Gaillard, The National Gallery, London WC2N 5DN.



In this vast canvas (257 x 301 cm), Orazio Gentileschi paints the biblical story of the Finding of Moses (Exodus 2:2-10), a subject popular in art during the Baroque period. The infant Moses had been placed by his mother in a basket and hidden in bulrushes to ensure his safety, following Pharaoh's edict that all new-born sons of Hebrews should be killed. While Moses's sister Miriam hid nearby, Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe in the River Nile, accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting. On finding the baby in the basket, Pharaoh's daughter proposed to take him back to the palace. The painting depicts the moment when, after offering to find someone to help nurse the baby, Miriam comes forward with her own - and Moses's - mother.

The Finding of Moses was a royal commission, executed by Orazio Gentileschi in London for Queen Henrietta Maria in the early 1630s, a few years after his arrival at the court of Charles I. It was almost certainly made to mark the birth of Prince Charles, the future Charles II, in 1630. The Finding of Moses once hung in the Great Hall of the Queen's House at Greenwich. The paintings that Orazio produced at the court of Charles I are characterised by their rich colouring, skilful rendering of sumptuous fabrics, and a courtly elegance. They are highly staged and their richly decorative effects, soft lighting and vibrant colours recall the large-scale history paintings of Titian and Veronese. Of all Orazio's royal commissions, The Finding of Moses is the most ambitious and displays unprecedented refinement and beauty.


While today Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639) may not be as widely known as his daughter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654 or later), he was one of the leading figures of the Italian Baroque. Born in Pisa, into a family of artists, his life and career spanned a period marked by significant artistic movements and innovations: from the late Mannerism of his early paintings to the revolutionary style of Caravaggio, adopted by Orazio for a short time in Rome, and the courtly 'international' style, whose elegance and refinement characterise his mature works. Orazio enjoyed an international career working across Italy - in Rome, Ancona, Fabriano, Genoa, and Turin - as well as in Paris and London.

While working for Queen Marie de' Medici in Paris, Orazio met George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), who was there to arrange the marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria in 1625. Buckingham invited Orazio to London and the painter left Paris in 1626 to assume a position at the court of the newly crowned Charles I. As well as his easel paintings, Orazio's output in London included ceiling canvases for the Great Hall at the Queen's House - Henrietta Maria's 'House of Delight' close to the Thames at Greenwich (now at Marlborough House, London) - and the ceiling of the 'saloon' at York House, Buckingham's mansion on the Strand (removed to Buckingham House after 1703, but since destroyed). In 1638 Orazio's daughter Artemisia came to London, perhaps to assist her ailing father on the ceiling painting of the Queen's House. The following year Orazio died following an illness, aged 76, and was granted the honour of burial in the Queen's Chapel at Somerset House.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was set up in 1980 to save the most outstanding parts of our national heritage, in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK. It will receive £5 million of Government grant in aid in 2019/20. Follow us on Instagram: @NationalHeritageMemorialFund #MemorialFinerThanStone

Tags: National Gallery, Finding of Mose, Orazio Gentileschi, Dr Gabriele Finaldi,

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