The 20in x 2ft 2in (51 x 68cm) oil on canvas, which is contained in a Louis XIV carved and gilt frame, depicts the Holy Family and Saint John the Baptist, one of the artist’s favourite subjects. It has an estimate of €300,000-400,000 at the sale on December 19.
From c.1800, when he was minister of arts and the interior in Paris, Lucien Bonaparte (1775-1840) amassed an impressive art collection that included works commissioned from contemporary artists as well as pictures by Old Masters.
This painting may have been acquired in Paris or on an Ambassadorial visit to Spain where he purchased a large number of paintings.
The work is listed in an inventory of 1804 accompanying the despatch of his collection from Paris to Rome where Lucien went into exile after a dispute with his brother. It is one of two Poussins that were in his collection. The other, Massacre of the Innocents, is now in the Musée Conde in Chantilly.
Later, faced with financial difficulties, Lucien put some of his collection up for sale through a series of auctions in London and Paris, where this painting was offered on more than one occasion. It sold in a Paris auction held from December 25 1823 to January 10 1824 for 3000 francs.
The next owner of the Poussin was Guillaume Bertrand Scipion de Saint-Germain, a French doctor who acquired it around 1840. The painting then remained with the doctor’s descendants until it resurfaced 14 years ago.
In the intervening years the work was known only through an engraving, one of a series that Lucien commissioned of his collection.
Since its re-emergence, notes Tajan’s catalogue, it has appeared at auction at Christie’s London in 2003, was then with Agnews and was then back at Christie’s in December 2015.
The painting has been dated to c.1626-27, the beginning of the artist’s first trip to Rome.