Poynter's The Ionian Dance, once lost, emerges at $621,500

Sir Edward John Poynter's The Ionian Dance, a formerly lost painting that shocked its Victorian audiences, will sell at Bonhams on July 10.

Poynter The Ionian Dance
Poynter's 'shocking' portrayal of the semi-clad girl was inspired by stories from the buried Pompeii

The painting was last seen in 1915, when it was bought by a private collector and disappeared from the public eye. It was known only by an engraving completed in the year of its creation, 1895.

The masterpiece, which is one of the most important by the former president of the Royal Academy, is now valued at up to £400,000 ($621,540). It forms the highlight of Bonhams' 19th century paintings.

The Ionian Dance was inspired by an ancient Greek poem by Horace, where a young girl is exiled from Greece and the Ionian Islands.

In Poynter's painting, she is seen in a revealing gown, performing a native dance for her new Roman mistress.

Poynter's portrayal of the girl as a sexual figure is said to stem from the lustful stories that were emanating at the time from Pompeii, which had been discovered in 1863 under a layer of ash.

"For the first time, excavations exposed magnificent murals, artworks and the preserved remains of the city's inhabitants," explained Bonhams.

"The city had been discovered once before in 1599 by an architect who stumbled across frescoes of such frequent sexual content that they were hastily covered over again and no more of the city was touched.

"After the 19th century re-discovery, artists were heavily influenced by the ancient Roman culture that had been tragically wiped from history."

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