Moses by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666), known as il Guercino, for sale at Moretti Fine Art in Paris.

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The painting was sold at auction in Paris in late 2022 when it had been misattributed to an anonymous follower of Guido Reni (part of the 17th-century Bolognese School) with a note to say an ‘attribution to Guercino was also considered’.

At the November 25 sale at Chayette & Cheval, where it featured on the catalogue front cover, Moses took €590,000 against an estimate of €5000-6000.

However, following extensive provenance research and restoration, Moretti Fine Art has established it is by il Guercino and it is now priced in the region of €2m.

In demand

Guercino became the most important painter in Bologna following the death of Guido Reni (1575 1642).

Moretti believes the picture is datable to c.1618-19, a time in which the young Guercino was greatly in demand producing altarpieces for churches in Cento as well as easel paintings for an ever-growing private clientele.

This picture is first recorded in 1624, as part of the collection of Cardinal Alessandro d’Este (1568-1624) in Rome, a patron of Guercino who almost certainly knew him during the period the painter resided in the city from 1621-23.

Following the death of the cardinal, the painting entered the Este ducal collections in Modena and remained there until the Napoleonic era, when it was taken to France and its whereabouts since then are unknown.Prior to it s rediscovery, Guercino’s Moses was known through 17th-century painted copies, a drawing and engravings.

Important addition

Fabrizio Moretti said: “The discovery of this work constitutes one of the most important additions to Guercino’s oeuvre in recent years and adds to our understanding of his early maturity, a period considered by many to be his greatest for the dynamism, vigour and spontaneity demonstrated in his paintings.”

The new Moretti gallery in Paris opened on September 14 and the picture will be part of its debut exhibition.