Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize 2017


The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize was established by Sir Denis’ friends and colleagues in 2010 in honour and celebration of his 100th birthday. Sir Denis was one of the most distinguished art historians and collectors of the 20th century, and a determined campaigner and philanthropist. He specialised in Italian XVII Century Paintings and was an authority on Poussin, Caravaggio, Guercino and Annibale Carracci. Sir Denis died on 24th April 2011.

Subject matter

The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize comprises an award of £1,000 for an essay of distinction which reflects Sir Denis’ studies, research and interest in the period of art from the Seicento (17th century), the work of Guercino, Carracci, Caravaggio and Nicolas Poussin, and his much wider range of art historical interests as indicated in the biography below, including the 15th and 16th centuries and also certain key modern and contemporary artists. Sir Denis was a contemporary and a friend of Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Giorgio Morandi and he much admired their work.Of the contemporary artists, he liked the post-war avant garde British artists, as well as David Hockney and Grayson Perry. We welcome essays on any of these aspects and artists including the contemporary ones.


Throughout his life and until his very last days, Sir Denis devoted a substantial amount of his time to help and encourage young students in the study of the art subjects he was very interested in. The Prize aims to continue Sir Denis’s endeavours in this respect.

The prize is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students who are 30 years of age or below when submitting their essay, who have completed their highest degree qualification within the past five years (graduating in 2012 or after), or who are currently studying for a postgraduate qualification. Only unpublished essays are eligible for submission.


It is a condition of the prize that the winner will present his or her essay as a lecture to an invited audience. This year it will be held in November 2017 at the Museum of the Order of St. John, followed by a reception and dinner in honour of Sir Denis. Previous locations have included The Courtauld Institute of Art, The Ashmolean, The Fitzwilliam, The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin and the Church of San Lorenzo in Cento, Italy, the birthplace of Guercino.

Submission Guidelines

Manuscripts should be submitted in English. Submissions should be no longer than 5,000 words in length. The Burlington Magazine’s notes for contributors should be adhered to.

Manuscripts can be submitted by email sent to with the words ‘Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize Entry’ in the subject line. Alternatively, manuscripts can be sent by mail to:

Suzanne Marriott
The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation
c/o Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
5 Fleet Place
London EC4M 7RD

The closing date for submissions is 5th September 2017.

Applications must be accompanied by a full educational CV including date of birth, address and current and previous occupations and work experience.

In order to promote the prize and the work of the artists who Sir Denis admired, it is a condition of submission that the winning author grants the Trustees of The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation the right to copy, distribute copies and generally to publish the winning essay in publications which the Trustees deem suitable. The essay will not be edited in any way without the consent of the author and credit will always be given to the author.

The Judging Panel and The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation

The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize judging panel is coordinated by Suzanne Marriott and by Orietta Benocci Adam, Trustees of The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation who, although not represented on the Judging panel, will have discretion over ethical and other matters which, in the opinion of its Trustees, may have been of material importance to Sir Denis.

The Judging Panel for the 2017 Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize comprised:

  • Professor Daniele Benati, Alma Mater Studiorum, Department of Visual Arts, University of Bologna
  • Dr. Alan Borg CBE FSA, Librarian of the Order of St. John
  • Professor David Ekserdjian, Professor of History of Art and Film, University of Leicester
  • Dr Fausto Gozzi, Director of the Pinacoteca Civica di Cento, Italy
  • Professor Tom Henry, Professor of History of Art, University of Kent
  • Dr Joanna Kilian, Senior Curator, National Museum of Warsaw
  • Dr John T Spike, Senior Scholar in Residence, Muscarelle Museum of Art, The College of William and Mary, USA. Dr Spike is also a prominent contemporary art critic and past director of the Florence Biennale.

The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize 2017 at The Museum of the Order of St. John.
with her Essay presented as a Lecture:
Simon Vouet, Claude Mellan and the Science of Superficiality.

Saskia Rubin is a PhD candidate studying Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art, focusing on the work of Luca Giordano (1634-1705). Between 2014-2015, she achieved her MA in History of Art with Distinction (76%) with her dissertation: Craft Fit for Contemplation: The Collaborative Prints of Simon Vouet and Claude Mellan, 1624-27.  She was the 2017 Winner of the Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize. Between March-June 2018, she completed a Michael Bromberg Fellowship in the Prints and Drawings department at the British Museum. She continues to carry out research projects for an established commercial gallery that specialises in Old Master and British paintings, including cataloguing a collection of 70 drawings by Jules Pascin. She is also a Print Room assistant at the Courtauld Institute of Art.