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A Christmas present for the Nation – Orazio saved

Issued December 2019

The National Gallery is today (18 December 2019) saying a huge thank you to the hundreds of members of the public who have donated to help it raise the last £2 million it needed to buy a painting of outstanding importance for the national heritage – The Finding of Moses by Orazio Gentileschi.

This means the painting will now stay on free public display in Trafalgar Square, for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.

Image: Children in Room 31 of the National Gallery, London saying thank you to the hundreds of members of the public who have donated to help raise the last £2 million needed to buy 'The Finding of Moses' by Orazio Gentileschi (early 1630s). Photo © The National Gallery, London

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. '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. Until today, there was only one* Orazio Gentileschi work in a UK public collection.

'The Finding of Moses' had been on generous long-term loan to the National Gallery from a private collection for almost twenty years – so long that many people assumed it already formed 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 301 cm), 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.
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.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said: 'This beautiful painting, which has been an important focal point of the National Gallery's collection for so long, will now remain on permanent display for current and future generations to study, admire and be inspired by. I congratulate the National Gallery and everyone who has helped make this happen.'

As a charity, the National Gallery depends upon public generosity to help it achieve great things and so we are enormously grateful for exceptional grants of £2.5 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £1 million from Art Fund.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: ‘This widely admired masterpiece is also a significant piece of our national heritage with its own compelling story. Millions have had the pleasure of admiring it over two decades at the National Gallery and the Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund agreed it was vital to make a major contribution to securing its future. We are delighted that the Gallery has purchased the picture and so ensures millions more in the future can appreciate this example of Orazio Gentileschi’s work and its wider historical importance.’

Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, said, 'Orazio Gentileschi’s 'The Finding of Moses' is a masterpiece of visual brilliance and epic storytelling, whose acquisition Art Fund’s trustees supported with £1 million – one of only a handful of grants of this magnitude we have ever given. Our enthusiasm is clearly shared by everyone who has donated to the Gallery’s public appeal. Together we have secured its place on the walls of the National Gallery where it will be enjoyed by everyone, forever.'

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

We are also enormously grateful for the generous support of The Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, The Capricorn Foundation, The Manny and Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation, Alejandro and Charlotte Santo Domingo, Beatrice Santo Domingo, The Wei Family and other donors.

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

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said, ‘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. Big donors and little ones have ensured that 'The Finding of Moses' can be enjoyed by everyone; our thanks to all of them.’




The American Friends of the National Gallery, London

£8.5 million

The National Gallery Trust

£5 million

National Heritage Memorial Fund

£2.5 million

Art Fund

£1 million



Amount raised from individuals, trusts, and the public

£2 million

Total net cost of acquisition to the National Gallery

£19.5 million

(The full cost of the painting is £22 million; the net cost to the National Gallery is £19,471,340 taking into account the tax remission available under private treaty sale rules).


* 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt', 1615–20), Birmingham Museums Trust


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 with 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

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 151,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff in 2019) and a range of digital platforms. Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at


  • Photo © The National Gallery, London
  • Orazio Gentileschi, 'The Finding of Moses', early 1630s. Private Collection


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