The Finding of Moses
- Art Funded
- Private Collection
Orazio Gentileschi’s The Finding of Moses is a masterpiece of Italian Baroque art and a painting of outstanding historical significance.
The picture was painted in London in the early 1630s, during the 12 years Gentileschi spent working as court painter to Charles I. It was made for Queen Henrietta Maria, almost certainly to mark the birth of her son, the future Charles II, in 1630.
Gentileschi was born in Pisa into a family of artists. He moved to Rome around 1576 and became a successful painter, producing works in the style of Caravaggio as well as mosaics for St Peter’s Basilica. His five children, including his celebrated daughter Artemisia, were all trained by their father in the art of painting.
After short periods working in Genoa and Paris, Gentileschi moved to London in 1626 to assume a position at the court of Charles I. His remarkable output in England included 11 major easel paintings and nine ceiling canvases for the Great Hall at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. Gentileschi died in London in 1639, aged 76, and was buried in the Queen’s Chapel at Somerset House.
This vast canvas depicts the Biblical story in which the infant Moses is discovered hidden in the bulrushes by the Pharaoh’s daughter. This royal figure is shown at the centre of the painting, while Moses’s mother and sister are shown on the left offering to nurse the baby.
The Finding of Moses has spent more than half of its 400-year history in Britain, and has been on long-term loan to the National Gallery for almost 20 years. Only five other works by Gentileschi (including his cycle of ceiling paintings for the Queen’s House) are held in the UK. After a successful fundraising campaign and public appeal, it now becomes the first work by the artist to be acquired by the National Gallery.
The painting’s provenance is exceptional for being fully documented from Orazio Gentileschi’s time until the present day. In addition to being a prestigious royal commission, ‘The Finding of Moses’ has been in this country for more