A VICTORIAN oil painting originally belonging to a member of a wealthy Bolton colliery-owning family is set to fetch up to £2 million at auction in America.

In The Conservatory (The Rivals) was painted by French-born, London-based artist James Tissot in the late 1870s and originally belonged to Kaye Knowles, a nephew of wealthy Bolton colliery owner James Knowles.

Mr Knowles was Mayor of Bolton between 1855 and 1857 and his wife, Mary Jane Knowles, was the first recorded Mayoress.

The former Bolton mayor was born in the town in 1812 and died at Eagley Bank in 1886.

Mr Knowles’s family started opening pits in Eagley Bank and Sharples in the 18th century, while Little Bolton Colliery in Slater Lane, near the River Tonge, in Bolton, was owned by the Knowles family between 1853 and 1863.

In the 1871 Census, Kaye Knowles listed himself as a “master coal proprietor”.

Now, the Tissot painting — originally bought by Kaye Knowles with the help of Bolton coal money — is up for sale and it is expected to sell for between $2.5 million and $3.5 million dollars at Christie’s at the Rockefeller Plaza in New York on October 28.

Although the Bolton link is not mentioned in the auction catalogue, Christie’s confirm that Kaye Knowles owned the painting until his death in the summer of 1886.

Kaye Knowles was only aged 53 when he died suddenly at the London and North Western Hotel in Liverpool on August 17, 1886.

He was buried at Turton on August 21.

In his will, he left nearly £250,000, which was an immense amount of money in the 1880s.

After his death, his treasured Tissot painting was bought by his brother, Andrew.

More recently, between 1981 and 1986, the picture was owned by wealthy American oil man and arts patron Charles Wrights-man, who used to entertain assassinated US President John F Kennedy at his home in Palm Beach, Florida. In 2009, Mr Wrightson’s widow, Jayne, donated the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who are now selling the picture.

In his 1986 book, Tissot, the late BBC TV Antiques Roadshow expert, Christopher Wood, says the painting “is another of Tissot’s triangular comedies of manners, as two winsome sisters in blue compete for the charms of a lone male, who seems to seek refuge beside their mother”.

It is not the only Tissot painting with a Bolton link coming up for sale.

At Sotheby’s in London on December 4, Tissot’s painting, A Visit To The Yacht, once owned by the second Viscount Lever-hulme, son of the Bolton born soap magnate and philanthropist, the first Viscount Leverhulme, is expected to sell for between £2 million and £3 million.