‘Lost’ Guercino masterpiece to go on display in Britain 200 years after it vanished

The painting depicts Moses in a ‘gesture of praise’, raising his head and hands in reverence to connect with God
The painting depicts Moses in a ‘gesture of praise’, raising his head and hands in reverence to connect with God - Moretti Gallery/PA

A “lost” masterpiece by Italian artist Guercino will go on public display in Britain for the first time after it was rediscovered more than 200 years since it vanished.

The 17th century painting by the Baroque old master, titled Moses, was unearthed in 2022 at an auction in France by expert and dealer Fabrizio Moretti, who has since restored it.

It will now be put on display in a collection alongside four other Guercino paintings, one of which will be on loan from the Royal Collection Trust.

Libyan Sibyl, which was acquired by George III and once hung in Buckingham Palace, will be displayed next to Moses, King David, Samian Sibyl and the Cumaean Sibyl with a Putto.

The display, at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, will mark the first time all of the artworks have been together in one location since leaving the artist’s studio in 1651.

Moses was thought to have been crafted by the Italian painter between 1618 and 1619. It depicts the Old Testament figure in a “gesture of praise”, raising his head and hands in reverence to connect with God.

The work was in the possession of a 17th century Roman Catholic cardinal and his descendants, until the 1800s when its whereabouts became unknown.

The masterpiece was then moved to France at some point in time, where it was spotted and rediscovered by the old masters expert, who realised it had been misattributed at an auction in Paris.

He later used the work to inaugurate Moretti Fine Art’s new Paris gallery in September last year.

‘Irresistible arrival’

Pippa Shirley, the director of Waddesdon Manor, said: “We are so excited to be able to display this group of paintings in a first for Guercino at Waddesdon, and to put a new acquisition on display also for the first time.

“The arrival of Moses felt irresistible because it appeared just as we were planning this exhibition, with the great painting of King David at its heart.

“Bringing the two together with the group of sibyls creates an incredibly rich context of contrast and comparison, allowing us an insight into the arc of Guercino’s extraordinary career.”

Born in 1591, Guercino was among the most sought-after Italian painters of his era, producing hundreds of artworks under the patronage of popes, foreign courts and dukes.

He was renowned for his Baroque painting style, characterised by dramatic compositions, intense emotions, rich colours and intricate details.

“The sibyls in particular are emblematic of his work, as he returned to the subject of these mysterious and powerful female seers again and again,” Ms Shirley said.

“I hope that they will create the same fascination for our visitors.

“Because the way in which all of these paintings embody ideas of faith and foresight, power and prophecy, and how the past relates to the future, is as relevant to us now as it was in the uncertain 17th century world.

“We are immensely grateful to the National Gallery and His Majesty the King and the Royal Collection for so generously enabling this potent encounter.”

Moses and the four other paintings will be publicly displayed at Waddesdon Manor from March 20 until October.