The 6ft 2in x 7ft 5in (1.9 x 2.25m) oil on canvas is estimated ‘in excess of £20m’ and will appear at their Old Master & British Paintings evening sale on July 7.
It has come to auction from the descendants of railway entrepreneur Baron Maurice de Hirsch de Gereuth (1831-96) who acquired it from the collection of the Dukes of Marlborough (the collection at Blenheim Palace included at least 10 other works by the great Flemish artist).
Having not been seen in public for over a century, Lot and his Daughters still hangs in its Blenheim frame.
It has been billed as “an outstanding example of Rubens’ early maturity” but its appearance at auction is bound to attract comparisons with the famous sale of The Massacre of the Innocents which took £45m at Sotheby’s in July 2002.
While the latter picture dated from c.1609-11 and was an emotive masterpiece characterised by noise and violence, Lot and his Daughters is a more intimate scene exploring the themes of vice and virtue through the Old Testament story of the incestuous seduction of a father by his two daughters.
It was a favoured subject of Northern European artists including the likes of Lucas van Leyden, Jan Massys, Joachim Wtewael and Hendrick Goltzius, and it was one to which Rubens returned to throughout his career.
Paul Raison, deputy chairman of Christie’s Old Master picture department, said: “The impact of this painting in the flesh is overwhelming: we look forward to seeing the reactions of those who come to view it when we exhibit it in New York, Hong Kong and London.”