14/10/2012 11:32 BST

Mystery Of Hans Holbein The Younger Painting Finally Solved

The mystery behind the subject of a painting by a 16th century artist has finally been solved.

Hans Holbein the Younger was known as King's Painter to Henry VIII.

His portrait, Hans of Antwerp, was first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1639 when the painting hung in Charles I's Chair Room at Whitehall, but by then repairs to damage on the artwork already obscured the identity of the sitter.

hans holbein

The picture on the right shows the painting's remarkable transformation after careful restoration

The portrait depicts a man dressed in a fur-lined gown, resting his quill pen on a sheet of paper and cutting the string of a letter with a knife.

Now, after painstaking removal of overpaint and discoloured varnish, conservators have confirmed that the man in the painting is a German merchant.

It is one of 27 works by Holbein to go on display in the exhibition The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein, which is to open next month at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Royal Collection Trust conservator Claire Chorley said: "It was incredibly exciting to rediscover details that had been lost within the painting for so long.

"We even uncovered a metal key lying on the desk that had previously been completely invisible."