Manchester Art Gallery

A lost masterpiece?

It’s what curators live for: drawing attention to hidden gems. Although we had considered this work for display in the gallery, it has remained in the store simply because we couldn’t say enough about it. Now that Bendor has opened up the story of this painting for us, we are pleased to hang it in pride of place. And it looks fantastic!

Hanna Williamson, Curator: Fine Art

In the third series of BBC Four’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, 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.

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

The programme investigates the life of Zoffany – a chancer and adventurer who squandered his Royal patronage through a series of predictable errors of judgement. Travelling to Florence to see the location of his greatest painting, The Tribuna of The Uffizi Gallery, Bendor also visits Parma where Zoffany painted an extraordinary self-portrait.

Can Dr Grosvenor accurately confirm who the painting should be attributed to?

During the episode Emma Dabiri investigates Manchester’s support for the abolition of slavery through the history of the gallery’s first purchase – a portrait of the black American actor Ira Aldridge. She also tells the story of the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition of 1857 – the largest art exhibition ever held in Britain, and looks into the Manchester Gallery attacks by three Suffragettes in 1913.

Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, Available on the BBC iPlayer.

Read the more about the attempt to properly attribute the artist on Art UKs Art Detective website.