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Painting Examination for BBC Show 'Lost Masterpieces' at Pollok House with presenters Emma  Dabiri and Dr Bendor Grosvenor | Courtesy BBC © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums
Painting Examination for BBC Show 'Lost Masterpieces' at Pollok House with presenters Emma Dabiri and Dr Bendor Grosvenor | Courtesy BBC © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums
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Copy of Painting Turns out to Be 400-Year-Old Lost Masterpiece by Rubens

Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 12 April 2018
BBC Four programme Britain’s Lost Masterpieces unearths the Sir Peter Paul Rubens portrait of the Duke of Buckingham in a stately home in Glasgow, Scotland.

Four centuries since it was painted by the famous Flemish artist, Dr Bendor Grosvenor of the BBC Four programme identified the portrait to be by Rubens whilst working on the show.

‘The chance to discover a portrait of such a pivotal figure in British history by one of the greatest artists who ever lived has been thrillingly exciting,’ said the art historian. ‘I hope it inspires many people to visit Glasgow’s museums, some of the finest in the country.’

Curator of European Art at Glasgow Museums, Pippa Stephenson with the painting at Pollok House
Curator of European Art at Glasgow Museums, Pippa Stephenson with the painting at Pollok House | © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums

Thought to be a later copy of a lost painting by Rubens, the work had hung on public display in the dinning room of Pollok House.

Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, authenticated the painting of George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, confirming it to be by the Flemish artist. After centuries of dirt and overpainting was cleaned off by restorer Simon Gillespie the piece revealed many of Ruben’s trademark techniques.

Before treatment of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Duke of Buckingham, 1625
Before treatment of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Duke of Buckingham, 1625 | Courtesy CSG CIC Glasgow Museums. Photo © Simon Gillespie Studio

A technique called dendrochronology, used to examine the tree rings of the wood, dated the panel to be from the 1620s and further technical analysis revealed the panel on which the portrait was painted had been prepared in the same way as was custom in Rubens’ studio.

‘BBC Four is a place for discovery and finding a new perspective, and it is thrilling that we are able to give audiences an insight into the uncovering of a new masterpiece and to find a work of art that was thought to be lost,’ said BBC Four’s Editor, Cassian Harrison.

The cleaned version of Sir Peter Paul, Duke of Buckingham, 1625
The cleaned version of Sir Peter Paul, Duke of Buckingham, 1625 | Courtesy CSG CIC Glasgow Museums. Photo © Simon Gillespie Studio

Now the portrait has been correctly reattributed to Rubens, it begs the question of how much the painting might be worth. A Rubens sold at auction last year for a whopping £44,882,500, so, although the Glasgow Museums have no intention of selling the work, the new discovery is both an artistic and monetary asset to the city’s collection.

Wanting to give as many people as possible the chance to see this portrait of James I’s infamous lover, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum will have it on display from Thursday September 28, 2017.

Britain’s Lost Masterpieces will air on BBC Four on Wednesday September 27 at 9pm.

What to see more art news? Newly Authenticated Hieronymus Bosch Goes on Show in Kansas City.