Britain's Lost Masterpieces

BBC (13 x 60 mins)

Nominated for 2017 RTS Scotland Best Documentary & Specialist Factual: Arts award

In Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, art detective Dr Bendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri, delve into Britain’s local museums and country houses to look for lost and hidden public treasures. They set out to uncover the forgotten but fascinating stories behind the paintings, people, and our public collections, with some amazing results.

In series 4...


In Oxford the art detectives investigate a mysterious scholar in a painting that might be by one the world’s most famous portraitists. Travelling to Italy and a world of body snatchers there’s an astonishing twist.


In Birmingham the art detectives investigate two lost landscapes. Emma explores 18thcentury land ownership whilst Bendor uses science to discover more.


In Cardiff the art detectives tackle a fake restoration to reveal a Madonna. Emma explores the story of two wealthy Welsh sisters. Bendor investigatesBotticelli’s Renaissance.

In series 3...


Dr Bendor Grosvenor and Emma Dabiri travel to Tiverton, Devon to investigate a small portrait of Rembrandt in the collection of a National Trust house, Knightshayes Court. The painting is thought to be a later copy of a self-portrait by Rembrandt now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, but Bendor believes it is in fact a study for the finished picture by Rembrandt himself.


Bendor and Emma visit Manchester Art Gallery. Bendor finds a painting of a Country Gentleman from the 1770’s which he believes has been misattributed to Nathaniel Dance. He feels sure it is in fact by the German painter Johann Zoffany, a favourite portraitist of the Royal Family under King George III.

Can we accurately confirm who the painting should be attributed to?

Petworth, West Sussex

Petworth House in West Sussex is one of the great baroque treasure houses of England and Bendor finds two paintings which he feels warrant investigation; a portrait of a Lady from Genoa which was once attributed to Rubens, but Bendor is convinced is by Anthony Van Dyck, and a portrait of a young cardinal ‘in the style of’ Titian, which Bendor believes may be by Titian himself. If this turned out to be the case it would be his greatest discovery so far.

In series 2...


Pollok House is a country house right in the middle of a Glasgow city park, bordered on one side by the M77 and on the other side by the south side of Glasgow. Owned by Glasgow City Council and looked after by the National Trust for Scotland, it truly is a house for the people, surrounded by the people. Pollok has an impressive collection of Spanish art, the legacy of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, the man who once owned the house. Unfortunately, some of Pollok’s treasures have been placed in storage due to a leaking roof and urgent renovations. But could one of these displaced pictures be a priceless work by Rubens, lost for centuries, hiding north of the border?


Along with a hippo skeleton, a stuffed hedgehog and a log boat, Derby Museum has the best collection of Joseph Wright of Derby paintings in the world. Wright of Derby is one of the greatest English artists who ever lived. He painted the most astounding ‘birth of science’ scenes, his landscapes and portraits are exquisite and he was inspired by the Industrial Revolution.

But can our team peel back layers of modern restoration on a mysterious landscape painting stuck in the Derby vaults to reveal another hidden masterpiece by Wright of Derby?


Carmarthenshire County Museum is a slice of history in itself. The building that houses it has been in continuous use since the 13th century, once a Bishop’s palace it was where the Bible was first translated into Welsh. But could it also be home to some mysterious cases of mistaken identity and two lost paintings from the time of Charles II?


Hospitalfield House in the fishing town of Arbroath on Scotland’s east coast is a Victorian treasure trove. The couple who owned this great house back in the 19th century were obsessed with the decorative arts and Hospitalfield is full of ornate carved ceilings, sculpted fireplaces, exquisite plasterwork and stonework carved by master masons. It’s still a place where artists work today and it has a fine picture collection.

Among the many Victorian paintings, could a mysterious 16th century portrait by one of the great Old Master artists lie waiting to be discovered?