A 16th-century masterpiece of the Virgin Mary believed to be the work of the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael and worth £20 million has been discovered in a Scottish stately home.
Detective work by one of Britain’s leading art historians unearthed the remarkable find in the dining room of Haddo House, an Aberdeenshire mansion run by the National Trust for Scotland.
Although there are three Raphael paintings on long-term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland, the “Haddo Madonna” is thought to be the only work by the artist in a public collection in Scotland.
The painting – bought by former owner George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen and British Prime Minister between 1852 and 1844 – was wrongly attributed to a little-known Italian painter, Innocenzo da Imola, and valued at just £20 in the late 19th century.
However Dr Bendor Grosvenor, the art historian who recently discovered a lost portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie in a stately home in East Lothian, discovered it had been bought as a Raphael in the early 19th century and had been on display in London along with other work by the artist in 1841.
Designed by celebrated Scottish architect William Adam in 1732 and extensively refurbished in the 19th century, Haddo House has a vast collection of fine art.
Dr Grosvenor, who made the discovery during the making of an episode of the BBC programme Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, said: “Finding a possible Raphael is about as exciting as it gets. This is a beautiful picture that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
The BBC 4 show, which will be screened tomorrow, reveals the Haddo House art collection also includes a previously-unknown landscape attributed to French artist Claud Lorrain.
Jennifer Melville, head of collections at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “We hold so many treasures all over the country. We always knew the collection at Haddo was very special and the discovery of these wonderful pieces confirms its importance in the Scottish art world.
“It is rare for visitors to see works of this quality outwith a gallery, so it is a real treat to come to Haddo House and enjoy them in this wonderful setting.
“There are not many places where you can experience the work of one of the Renaissance’s giants in a dining room. It is this intimacy which makes exploring our collections quite so special.”