A painting by renowned Australian landscape artist Eugene von Guérard, which has not been seen by art scholars for almost 150 years, has been rediscovered.
The work, titled View of the Granite Rocks at Cape Woolamai, depicts wild waves crashing over Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island along Victoria's coast and was last seen in public in 1873 at the Vienna World Exposition before it "disappeared".
Sotheby's Australia chairman Geoffrey Smith said the painting had been held by an international collector for the last 40 years, who was not aware of the work's significance.
"It even retains the original frame which we believe was made by the leading frame maker in Melbourne, Isaac Whitehead — it's a remarkable re-discovery," he said.
"We talk about lost and found, this painting obviously wasn't lost because the people who owned it, it was in their possession, but it's been lost to scholars and lost to researchers.
"It becomes part of our visual vocabulary of the history and development of Australian art, it's reattaining its rightful position in that story."
Mr Smith said although a smaller version of the painting was held by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the original had not been seen publicly since it was shown in Vienna.
"Because it's never been published, we never really knew what it looked like," he said.
"We have some inkling … from the descriptions and the reviews.
"When I was sent images of this painting, as soon I saw it I thought, 'yes, this is the missing painting that has not been seen for nearly 150 years'".
The painting was signed and dated, and included the artist's address in Gipps Street, East Melbourne.
Artist's work serves as record of Australian wilderness
Mr Smith said von Guérard, who was born in Austria and came to Australia to seek his fortune in the gold rush in 1852, is considered one of Australia's most important 19th-century artists.
Known for taking a romantic eye to Australia's landscape, Mr Smith said the work was quite large compared to von Guérard's other paintings.
"If you hone in there are these beautiful close ups of figures, of fisherman on the shoreline. There are two figures in the foreground and there is another tiny figure on the rocks just in the middle ground," he said.
"If you look carefully there is a small ship which is on the horizon line and there are birds circling over the pinnacle. This all gives a sense of scale.
"What I find so thrilling about this painting is this is a work that he sent out of Australia to represent himself, Victoria and the nation to a world expo in 1873."
Mr Smith said von Guérard travelled widely for his art, and his works have served as a record of the land at that time.
"Because of his technical ability, his desire to be so thorough and meticulous in his research, we are left with very clear and definitive records of what the landscape looked like what the wilderness looked like," he said.
"It has all important ramifications in terms of European settlement relationships with the First Australians, Indigenous Australians and also with conservation.
"In fact, scientists have used von Guérard's paintings to assist them in replanting and reforesting certain areas which have been devastated by European settlement."
The painting will go to auction in Sydney on May 3.