The portrait of novelist Jane Austen by James Andrews, which will be appear on the new Bank of England £10 note from 2017, goes under the hammer at Sotheby's tomorrow in London, where it is expected to fetch £150,000 at the auction house's English Literature and History Sale.
It was commissioned by a kindly Victorian vicar to portray his beloved aunt, a woman he described as: "Very attractive; her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation."
The portrait that came about is widely, although not universally, acknowledged, as being as close to showing what Jane Austen truly looked like as is possible.
The portrait has been reproduced innumerable times and an engraving of it will be used on the next £10 note.
"We've seen this portrait thousands of times but this original watercolour has not been very widely seen because it has always remained in the Austen family," said Sotheby's literature specialist, Gabriel Heaton. "Seeing it just brings you a little bit closer to the real person."
Most Austen experts have been happy to believe the likeness to be the real deal. But when Sotheby's announced its sale, by coincidence one Austen biographer complained that it was, in fact, "a Victorian airbrushing" of the writer. Paula Byrne told Radio 4's Today programme: "Jane Austen is the funniest writer, and she's been made to look dim witted."