Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Britain's Lost Masterpieces - Series 2 starts tonight

The second series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces starts on BBC4 tonight at 9pm.

If you've been wondering why the BBC1 Fake or Fortune team seem to have lost Dr Bendor Grosvenor (Art History Now), it's apparently because there has been a "spat" between him and Philip Gould which "have not been denied by either party"

I gather Bendor sees a clear difference between the programmes and that view might not be shared by Philip Gould.

For the record:
  • Britain's Lost Masterpieces deals with artwork in PUBLIC collections
  • Fake or Fortune? looks at art in PRIVATE ownership (i.e. no role for a private art dealer such as Philip Gould)
This means they now front and present seperate programmes!

In the second series Bendor teams up with social historian Emma Dabiri (who tweets as the @TheDiasporaDiva)

Jacky Klein (left) and Bendor Grosvenor with the painting which is the subject of Episode 1

The series has four episodes - as follows:
You can get a sense of what the series is like using the clips from Series 1

Episode 1: Glasgow

As already reported in the press, the first episode is about the holy grail - a lost masterpiece by a past master.

The programme follows
  • the review of a painting thought to be a copy of a Rubens portrait of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (constant companion and closest advisor to James I of England / James VI of Scotland in the 17th century). Apparently the subject is regarded as one of the most famous gay men in history!
  • the investigation of the painting under layers of subsequent painting and the discovery that it is in fact the rare and original 17th century portrait regarded as lost by art historians for almost 400 years; and 
  • its attribution to Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a famous painter in the early 17th century!
The portrait shows the Duke of Buckingham, James I’s lover. The King referred to Buckingham as his husband, and their relationship scandalised the court. Rubens’ portrait of Buckingham was painted in about 1625, but had been regarded as lost by art historians for almost 400 years.
The painting is discovered at Pollok House, Glasgow set in the scenic surroundings of Pollok Country Park on the outskirts of Glasgow. The painting belongs to Glasgow Museums.  Pollok House with its fine collection of paintings - and 360 acres of Pollok Estate - was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1967. The house and its collection of paintings are now managed by the National Trust for Scotland and the grounds also provide a home for the Burrell Collection.

Initially thought to be a copy, the Britain’s Lost Masterpieces team reveal new evidence which enables it to be attributed as an original by influential Flemish painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Previously thought to be a mere copy of a lost original, the picture’s attribution was doubted in part to layers of dirt and overpaint. The background and other areas of the portrait were entirely overpainted by a later hand, obscuring many of Rubens’ trademark techniques. Conservation work carried out for Britain’s Lost Masterpieces by the restorer Simon Gillespie has now returned the painting, which belongs to Glasgow Museums, to its original state, allowing for a new assessment of the attribution to Rubens, considered one of history’s most influential painters and a pioneer of the Flemish Baroque tradition whose work is now worth millions.

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.
Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis and a member of the Rubenianum, the Antwerp centre for Rubens scholarship, confirmed the attribution to Rubens.
"The Head Study of the Duke of Buckingham is a rare addition to Rubens's portrait oeuvre showing how he approached the genre."

Until now, only one British sitter painted by Rubens has been on display in Britain, the Earl of Arundel. The newly discovered portrait will now go on display at Pollok House, and is only the second portrait by Rubens in a public collection in Scotland.

Britain's Lost Masterpieces (W/T) (3x60') was commissioned by Mark Bell for BBC Four and the BBC executive producer is Emma Cahusac. It is produced and directed by Spike Geilinger and executive produced by Brendan Hughes and Harry Bell for Tern TV. In partnership with Art UK.


  1. Bendor Grosvenor is brilliant - but he needs to dump the vacuous Emma Dabiri, whose only contribution seems to be fatuous comments, garish outfits and idiotic gurning.

  2. I'm inclined to agree. I think the programme must been pitched as "history of art plus social history plus tick the diversity box" because that's the only rationale I can find for his sidekick.

    I don't mind the British history angle - it certainly keeps my other half interested - but I'd like a lot more shots of the history aspects and a lot less of her tossing her hair around. She's an attractive lady but I can only take so much hair tossing!


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