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'Lost' 400-Year-Old Portrait Found Above Fireplace

Dirt, additions of other artists had obscured its identity
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2017 11:06 AM CDT

(Newser) – A man's day out with his family resulted in the discovery of a 400-year-old painting of "perhaps one of the most famous gay men in history" by one of the most important painters in history, the Guardian reports. The story is only slightly less surprising because that man was Dr. Bendor Grosvenor of the BBC program Britain's Lost Masterpieces. Grosvenor noticed the painting of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, during a visit to the historic Pollok House in Glasgow, according to the BBC. "There was this painting further up by the fireplace and it sounds rather silly to say it, but it was a bit of a eureka moment and I thought: ‘My god, that looks like a Rubens,'" the Guardian quotes Grosvenor as saying. The portrait was painted by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens around 1625 but was believed to have been lost.

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In reality, later artists painting over the background of the portrait—not to mention hundreds of years of dirt and grime—had obscured the work's identity as an original Rubens. It was confirmed as such through X-rays, cleaning, and scientific analysis of the wood it was painted on. The portrait is believed to have been bought by an art collector who owned the Pollok House in the late-1800s, the Telegraph reports. The man who authenticated it calls it a "rare addition to Ruben's portrait oeuvre." Villiers was a minor noble elevated to duke by James I. Experts believe he was the king's lover, and a secret passageway connected the two men's bedrooms in one of James' residences. The restored portrait will be going on display in a Glasgow museum and art gallery this week. (A celebrity discovered this artwork rolled up in a tube.)

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