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Newly attributed Guercino work previously carrying €6,000 high estimate goes on sale for €2m

A painting newly attributed to the 17th-century Italian Baroque artist Guercino will go on show at the Moretti Fine Art gallery in Paris later this month with a price tag “in the region of €2m”. The work, which depicts the biblical figure Moses, will feature in a solo display opening on 14 September at the new space at 1 Place du Louvre. Moretti Fine Art already has galleries in London and Monaco.

The painting was consigned to a sale held at Hôtel Drouot in Paris last November, which was organised by the Paris auction house Chayette & Cheval. The work was by a follower of Guido Reni (an artist belonging ton the Bolognese school of the 17th century), said the Chayette & Cheval catalogue, adding that “an attribution to Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino (1591-1666) was also considered”.

The work carried an estimate of €5,000 to €6,000 at the Paris auction. “We paid around €800,000,” says the dealer Fabrizio Moretti. “The trade understood that it was a Guercino; we were bidding against other dealers.”

His gallery subsequently cleaned and restored the work. “There is no doubt of the quality. The attribution has been backed up by Keith Christiansen [former chairman of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York] and Letizia Treves [former curator of Italian and Spanish paintings, National Gallery, London],” Moretti says.

A gallery press statement says that “the light, fluid and painterly touch in Guercino’s Moses may be compared to that in his King David, datable to a year or two earlier (around 1617-18, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen) and the Head of an Old Man (around 1619-20, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), which shares Moses’s tightly cropped bust-length format.”

Moretti says that the work, which dates from around 1618, was in the collection of Cardinal Alessandro d’Este, a patron of Guercino. Following Este’s death in 1624, the painting is thought to have entered the Este ducal collections in Modena. In the 18th century, it was taken to France but its whereabouts since that period remain unknown.

The auction record price for a Guercino work stands at £5.2m for King David (around 1651), which sold at Christie’s London in 2010.

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