Belgian auction house Rops is holding a sale of Ancient Paintings, Ancient Furniture, Works of Art, Silverware, Jewels and Lustres on July 25.
Among the sale's highlights is a portrait painted by a close friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette of a woman whose husband is mentioned several times in Leo Tolstoy's landmark novel, War and Peace.
Yakov Ivanovich Bilibin, whose father founded an industrial empire and was mayor of the city of Kaluga, twice, is known to have donated 200,000 rubles to equip the militias which decimated the Grande Armee during the French retreat in 1812.
Depicted in this portrait is his wife, Madame Bilibin, as painted by Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun. As well as being a close friend of Marie-Antoinette, Le Brun visited Moscow and St Petersburg from 1795-1801 under the personal protection of Empress Catherine II.
While there, the artist painted some 60 portraits of the nobility and the bourgeoisie - including this example.
The Portrait of Madame Bilibin was reported expertly restored by expert Marc Aghémio back in 2007, who also spotted the artist's signature intentionally hidden in the arm of the couch, and visible under fluorescent light.
Born of exceptional circumstances and boasting a remarkable two-fold provenance, this portrait is appearing in Rops' sale with an estimate of €60,000-80,000.