Petworth House painting under the spotlight

Petworth House
Petworth House

A portrait at the National Trust’s Petworth House in West Sussex, purchased as a Titian, but downgraded in the 20th century, is under the spotlight in BBC Arts’ third episode of Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.

Andrew Loukes, House and Collections Manager at Petworth House, said: "The 16th century portrait of a young cardinal was first acquired as a Titian by the 3rd Earl of Egremont at Petworth, an illustrious collector of art and patron of JMW Turner, and was first recorded in the Petworth collection around the 1820s.

“In later years however it was questioned whether the painting was really by Titian’s hand. The styling of the setting and use of paint is similar to other Titian works but it had been felt that the portrait lacked his psychological insight and dynamic use of paint and so it had been reattributed as ‘in the manner’ of Titian.

"In the Petworth House episode, art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri explore whether the work was wrongly downgraded and if the portrait is by the hand of the Italian artist.

“The quality and detail of the face in the portrait gives Bendor Grosvenor hope but clumsy later additions make it more difficult to reach a clear-cut answer.

"The episode follows the specialist cleaning and the x-ray and infrared techniques used, before the portrait is shown to leading Titian expert, Professor Peter Humfrey, to make the final decision."

Andrew added: "It has been thrilling to follow the research and analysis that has been carried out for the programme. We’re looking forward to the big reveal and redisplaying the portrait back in the Marble Hall for visitors to enjoy once more."

“Petworth House has one of the finest collections of art and sculpture in the care of the National Trust. If the portrait is verified as a Titian it will join two other works by the Italian artist in the collection, alongside works by Van Dyck, Turner, Gainsborough and Reynolds.

The Britain’s Lost Masterpieces series is produced by Tern Television, Belfast. Watch the Petworth episode on BBC Four at 9pm on 29 August. For further information about Petworth and opening times visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth

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