Painted on a mahogany panel, it depicts the comic actor Edward Townsend singing The Beggar, a song written by the playwright for the Robin Hood-themed pantomime Merry Sherwood.
The picture was shown twice at the Royal Academy – in 1796 (when it was titled Mr Townsend as the beggar in the pantomime of Merry Sherwood) and again in 1893 (when simply called An Actor).
However, it has not been seen in public since.
It comes for sale at Duke’s of Dorchester on September 29 from the family of Maureen Brymer (1924-2021) with a complete provenance back to the Zoffany studio sale of 1810. It was acquired in 1819 by Thomas Wilkinson (1762-1837) the son of Jacob Wilkinson, a director of the East India Company and one of Zoffany’s most important supporters.
The picture, that measures 2ft 6in x 2ft 1in (76 x 63cm), comes in its original carved frame and has an estimate of £80,000- 150,000.