A LONG-LOST Rubens portrait of a courtier thought to be James I’s gay lover has been found hanging in a historic house.

The 17th-century masterpiece by Sir Peter Paul Rubens was discovered in Glasgow Museums’ collection at Pollok House.

The painting of George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, had been regarded as lost for almost 400 years. But conservation work carried out for BBC4’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces found that what was thought to have been a copy was the original, hidden under layers of dirt and overpainting.

Painted in about 1625, the painting was identified by presenter Dr Bendor Grosvenor, who said: ‘The chance to discover a portrait of such a pivotal figure in British history by one of the greatest artists who ever lived has been thrillingly exciting.’

The new attribution was confirmed by Ben van Beneden, director of Antwerp’s Rubenshuis Museum. The programme airs on Wednesday.