Henry Ossawa Tanner's Boy and Sheep under Tree is set to headline a sale of African American art at Swann Galleries in New York.
The painting dates to 1881 and is expected to make $200,000-300,000.
Tanner was the first African-American artist to achieve success internationally. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (as the only black student) during the 1880s and left for Paris in 1891, in part because the racist climate of the US at the time made it difficult to sell his work there.
The present piece was once included in the collection of Edward Lawrence Scull, who owned a number of Tanner's paintings.
A note left by Scull's wife on the back of another example reads: "The first picture that dear Edward bought of the colored Artist Tanner in 1883.
"Tanner was then butler for Dr. Albert Smith but had begun to draw and paint and used to go to Papa's office to talk with him about art.
"Now in 1900 he is living in Paris his paintings are in many of the finest private modern collections of the world."
Dr Smith was the Scull family's physician and introduced them to Tanner's work.
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