Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize 2019


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.


The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize comprises an award of £2,000 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 2014 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 Only unpublished essays are eligible for submission.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 2019 at The National Gallery, London, 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, the Church of San Lorenzo in Cento, Italy, the birthplace of Guercino, The Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell,  the Prints & Drawings Room at The British Museum.


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 2019.

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 for the 2019  Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize comprised:

Gareth Bell-Jones, Director/Curator Flat Time House, a gallery and archive in the former home of the great post-war conceptual artist John Latham(1921-2006). He is an associate lecturer and assessor for MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea School of Art .

Dr. Stephen Bury, Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian, Frick Art Reference Library (2010-). He is Chair of the Board of the Center for Book Arts, New York.”

Professor David Ekserdjian, Professor of History of Art and Film, University of Leicester

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director, The National Gallery, London

Prof Marcello Pecchioli, Professor of Philosophy of Science and History of New Media  at the Academy of Brera in Milan  and at the Academy of Arts in Naples. He collaborates with the University of Bologna, where he has a Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art History. 

Dr Edward Payne, Assistant Professor (Research); Pemberton Fellowship for the Study of Spanish Art
Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art; School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Durham University.

Cristiana Romalli,  Senior Director, Old Master Drawings, Sotheby’s

Dr John T Spike, Former Deputy  Director, Muscarelle Museum of Art, The College of William and Mary, USA and past director of the Florence Biennale.


  • Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize 2019

The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize 2019 at The National Gallery
with his Essay presented as a lecture:
Watteau’s ‘Gersaint Signboard’ (1720) as a marketing tool aimed at the ‘nouveaux riches’ of the John Law system period.

Maxime Michel achieved a Graduate Diploma in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2019, as well as an Accelerated Bachelor’s in History of Art from the Sorbonne University, Paris. He was the 2019 Winner of the Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize. Between 2014-2018, he completed the Business Law and Management Program at the Edhec Business School and Lille Faculty of Law, achieving a double Master’s cum laude in business law and tax management.