Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli self portrait

This self portrait by Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli (il Morazzone) (1573-1626) has been blocked from export in the hope £2m can be raised by a UK institution.

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Self-Portrait as a Knight, with a horse, an easel with painter’s palette and a page by Pier Francesco (il Morazzone) was offered at Bonhams in 2020 with an estimate £40,000-60,000 but was withdrawn and sold privately.

The current owner applied for an export licence but the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), on advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, has placed a temporary export block which runs until November 8.

The painting is the only known surviving self-portrait by the Lombard baroque painter and shows the artist both as a painter and a knight. 

It is an example of Lombard art, which has its origins in Lombardy in northern Italy during the early 17th century and remains a relatively unexplored field in art history. The style combines natural realism with intense spirituality and piety.

According to DCMS a work by il Morazzone is rare outside of northern Italy and this painting was presumed lost until its appearance on the London art market at Bonhams.

il Morazzone picture

A Self-Portrait as a Knight, with a horse, an easel with painter’s palette and a page, c.1605-10, by Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, known as il Morazzone (1573-1626).

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “There are no significant self-portraits by il Morazzone in any public collections in the UK, so this painting is a rare treasure. I hope that a buyer comes forward so that it can be studied and admired in this country.”  

Committee member Prof Mark Hallett said: ‘"This is an unusually complex and fascinating picture that cries out for further research and analysis, both as a self-portrait of an important painter from the period, and as a work that illuminates the wider social and cultural dynamics of the 17th century Lombardy art world.

"The painting, which for many years was housed in an English family collection, also has the potential to provide new and important perspectives on the collecting of Italian Baroque art in Britain.’’ 

The committee made its recommendation on the grounds that the departure of the painting from the UK would be a misfortune owing to its outstanding significance for the study of Lombard painting during the baroque period.

The picture had been in Spain during the 17th and early 18th century and is believed to have come to England in the late 18th or early 19th century. It was owned by a Catherine Brooks (1853–1934) at Flitwick Manor, Bedfordshire and then went to her cousin, Robert Adolphus Lyall (1876–1948) and was then owned by decent until it was offered at Bonhams in 2020.