A portrait of Charles Dickens which was lost for 174 years will finally hang in the author’s family home.
The museum dedicated to the English man of letters is seeking to raise money to buy the unearthed picture.
Found alongside a metal lobster in a box of trinkets in South Africa, the antique image had vanished from view after being displayed in the mid 19th century.
The portrait showing the “urgency, warmth and compassion” of the prolific novelist was uncovered and identified after a chance discovery.
It will now hang in the famous Londoner’s family home in Bloomsbury, which is now the Charles Dickens Museum.
The museum is welcoming the long-lost portrait as it attempts to raise funds to secure its future, and buy the watercolour for permanently display.
Created by portraitist Margaret Gillies, it depicts Dickens during the time in his early 30s when he penned A Christmas Carol, a novella which launched him into literary stardom and widespread popularity.
Cindy Sughrue, director of the Charles Dickens Museum, said: “We are excited to be bringing the beautiful lost portrait to the museum.
“The discovery would have been remarkable in any event but it is even more so because the portrait itself is exquisite.
“The skill of the artist is evident in the fineness of every brushstroke, in each strand of hair and the sparkling eyes that look right into yours.
“And in those eyes you see the complexity of the man, the confidence of success, the urgency, warmth and compassion, but also a hint of vulnerability.
“This display is only a fleeting one, but we are confident of raising the remaining funds needed to bring the portrait to the museum permanently.”
The museum is seeking to raise the £180,000 needed to purchase the portrait, and keep it on permanent display in London.
It was last displayed in 1844, after which it appeared to vanish, before being found in a box of trinkets bought at a South African household auction.
The portrait will be on display from April 2-7 in the room where Dickens wrote Oliver Twist