The enduring mysteries behind one of Scone Palace’s most famous paintings will be investigated by experts in a weekend television show.
Journalist Fiona Bruce and art expert Philip Mould of the BBC’s Fake or Fortune, will inspect the illustrious portrait of Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle.
For many years, the painting has been credited to German neoclassical painter Johann Zoffany but the show will question whether he was, in fact, the artist.
The portrait’s fame circulates around Dido Belle, the mixed-race 18th century daughter of an African slave, Maria Belle and a British naval captain, Sir John Lindsay.
After her mother died, Sir Lindsay instructed his uncle and aunt, the Earl and Countess of Mansfield to look after Dido.
The pair were guardians to their niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, and they brought Dido up as a free, educated girl on their estate at Kenwood House in Hampstead.
The painting shows Dido and her cousin Lady Murray sitting on a bench with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background.
Until the 1990s, the identity of Belle was unknown and other factors around the painting remain a mystery.
Scone Palace has been the beneficiary of the portrait since 2014 and has seen its popularity increase following release of Belle, a film about Dido’s life later that year.
Lady Mansfield of Scone Palace said she has always wanted to know the truth behind the painting.
She said: “The Dido painting, which hangs in our Ambassador’s Room at Scone Palace, is always a favourite with visitors and it still fascinates me.
“It poses all sorts of questions about race, identity and class.
“It was a treat to work with Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould as I have always wanted to know who actually painted the picture.”
Scone Palace will also host an exclusive Dido Belle evening on Thursday November 1.
Fake or Fortune will be shown on Sunday at 8pm on BBC One.