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Lost Rubens masterpiece discovered at Pollok House during Britain's Lost Masterpieces filming

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A 'lost' portrait by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens has been discovered at the National Trust for Scotland's Pollok House in Glasgow during the filming of BBC Four's Britain's Lost Masterpieces.

The 17th-century Flemish artist's "head study" of the Duke of Buckingham was identified by Dr Bendor Grosvenor of Britain's Lost Masterpieces. It was in Glasgow Museums' collection and on public display at the city's Pollok House stately home. But overpainting and centuries of dirt meant it was thought to be a later copy by another artist.

The restored portrait of George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, was authenticated as a Rubens by Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp. He said it was a "rare addition to Rubens's portrait oeuvre, showing how he approached the genre".

The portrait of the duke in a doublet with an elaborate lace collar and a sash dates from around 1625. He was a controversial figure in the Jacobean era who rose from minor nobility to become one of the favourites of James VI of Scots.

A pivotal figure in history

Dr Grosvenor said: "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."

Overpainting of the background of the painting and other areas by a later artist, along with hundreds of years of dust and dirt, had obscured Rubens' work. But scientific analysis of the wood it was painted on dated it to the 1620s, and found it had been prepared in a way done by Rubens' studio.

Additional cleaning and x-rays of the hair showed it was not a copy but was by the artist himself. The painting underwent conservation work by restorer Simon Gillespie to return it to its original appearance. It will go on display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow 27 September.

The painting will feature in the first programme of the new series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces at 21:00 BST on BBC Four on 27 September.

(image courtesy of BBC Four)

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