Delight as BBC Four's Britain's Lost Masterpieces discover Rubens in city's collection
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Delight as BBC Four's Britain's Lost Masterpieces discover Rubens in city's collection

Glasgow Museums is pleased to learn BBC Four’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces has discovered, in its collection, a painting art historians believe is a work by one of history’s most influential painters, the Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640). The portrait was on show at Pollok House, Glasgow. Before conservation and reassessment it was thought to be a copy of a lost original. It will go on display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum from Thursday 28 September.

The painting was identified by art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor whilst working with presenter and historian Emma Dabiri for a new series of Britain’s Lost Masterpieces. The first episode, featuring a rare 17th century portrait of the Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, will be aired on Wednesday 27 September on BBC Four at 9pm. 
Conservation work carried out by the restorer Simon Gillespie, working on behalf of the programme, removed layers of dirt and overpaint that had concealed many of Rubens’ trademark techniques, creating doubt over the paintings true attribution. Now returned to its original state the portrait underwent reassessment, the revised attribution to Rubens was confirmed by the director of the Rubenshuis Museum in Antwerp, Ben van Beneden.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, said: “Unsurprisingly we are beyond delighted to discover the painting is by Rubens, an artist renowned globally as one of the most important painters in history. 

“Glasgow is proud of its extensive art collection, considered by many to be amongst the finest in Europe. Glasgow Museums strive to learn more about the artwork in our care and it has been a joy to work with Britain’s Lost Masterpieces to understand much more about this remarkable painting.

“We are excited to give as many people as possible the opportunity to see Rubens’ masterpiece in person. George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham is sure to become one of the undoubted highlights of any visit to Kelvingrove.” 

Presenter Dr Bendor 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. I hope it inspires many people to visit Glasgow's museums, some of the finest in the country.”

The newly discovered portrait will be redisplayed with an updated interpretation in the ‘Looking at Art’ Gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum from Thursday 28 September, where it is expected to delight many of the 1.2 million plus people who visit the museum each year.  George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham is believed to have been painted in about 1625, during the reign of James I, but had been regarded as lost by art historians for almost 400 years. Until now, only one British sitter painted by Rubens has been on display in Britain, the Earl of Arundel and this portrait is only the second by Rubens held in a public collection in Scotland.

The programme details overwhelming evidence, including technical analysis of the panel on which the portrait was painted proved that it was prepared in the manner used in Rubens’ studio. Dendrochronology (examining the tree rings of wood to date it) showed that the panel was likely created in the early 1620s, and a number of alterations revealed by cleaning and X-ray analysis in areas such as the hair and costume, demonstrated that the painting could not be a copy, but was Rubens’ lost masterpiece.

Karen Cornfield, Property Manager for Pollok House said: “This is such exciting news for Glasgow and shows what a great eye Sir William Stirling Maxwell had. Pollok House is packed with beautiful paintings that he collected over the years. We hope the programme will encourage visitors to come to Pollok, explore the collection and to learn more about the family who brought so many great artworks to Glasgow.”  

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