A painting by 'matchstick' artist L.S. Lowry which has not been seen in public for two decades could set a new world record for his works by fetching up to £4.5 million at auction.
The Football Match was painted in 1949 and is one of the most eye-catching depictions of the sport by the Manchester City-supporting painter, famed for his depictions of Salford life.
The artwork is in the hands of a private collector and is estimated to go for between £3.5 million and £4.5 million when it is sold by Christie's in May.
Manchester millions: The Football Match is expected to fetch up to £4.5m at auction
Football fan: Lowry was a Manchester City supporter
A TALE OF TWO CITIES: MAN CITY IN 1949
Lowry's love of football seemed inextricably tied to his love of working class life; he felt they went together.
But his beloved Manchester City are anything but common these days and the artist would hardly recognise his old team now.
Among the richest clubs in the world, the side that was held by lowly Notts County in the FA Cup last weekend cost more than £200million.
They currently hold the British transfer record having bought Brazilian Robinho for £32.4million and their striker Carlos Tevez is reputed to be the best paid player in England on more than £250,000 per week.
It was a little different in 1949, the year that Lowry painted The Football Match.
At that time Man City counted German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, pictured above, among their number.
The former Luftwaffe pilot and prisoner of war has his own place in football legend having broken his neck in the 1956 FA Cup Final but played on to collect a winner's medal.
And he did it for barely more than a tenner.
A year after that cup triumph, Jimmy Hill successfully campaigned for players maximum wage to be raised from £20.
Tevez may be renowned as something of a lionheart on the field by today's standards, but he also wears a snood to keep out the cold.
Hundreds of his signature stick figures can be seen gathered at a match on a washed-out looking pitch between terraced houses and factories with billowing chimneys.
Christie's has described the painting as 'a modern masterpiece'.
Lowry, who died in 1976 at the age of 88, was known for his simple depictions of working class life.
He painted largely in his spare time while working for the Pall Mall Property Company in Manchester, but still achieved much recognition during his life.
He was the royal artist at the Queen's coronation in 1953 - the year after he retired - and nine years later became a Royal Academician. In 1967, his work featured on a stamp.
The money involved in art was a little different then though.
His 1947 work A River Bank was bought by Bury Council for £150 in 1951 - he would likely never have imagined that it would be controversially sold by the borough in 2006 for £1.25 million, at a Christie's auction.
The sale of The Football Match could outstrip the previous highest price for a Lowry, also sold by Christie's, when Good Friday, Daisy Nook fetched £3.8 million in 2007.
The auction house has sold 125 of his works since June 2006, together totalling £29.4 million.
The highest price for a Lowry football painting was £1.9 million when Going To The Match was sold in in 1999. Like the work to be sold on May 26, the canvas was 28 x 36 inches.
Philip Harley, head of 20th century British & Irish art at Christie's London, said: 'The Football Match by L.S. Lowry is the ultimate work for passionate connoisseurs of Lowry's work and of football.'
Rachel Hidderley, Christie's international specialist and director of 20th century British art, added: 'The large-format, panoramic, bird's-eye composite view of Lowry's own landscape perfectly captures the spirit and drama of a town gripped by the excitement of the Saturday football match.
'The empty streets peopled only with occasional women, prams and shoppers contrast the busy crowd watching the football match.
'The artist warmly captures a Northern town relaxing during a weekend, following a busy working week, which he depicted so often in his revered industrial scenes.'
It will be sold during Christie's sale of 20th Century British Art.
The painting toured in London, the US and Paris shortly after it was completed before entering a collection in 1950.
Lowry was famously celebrated in the chart-topping hit Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs by Brian And Michael in 1978.
Art lovers have for centuries debated the reason for her enigmatic smile.
Now it appears Mona Lisa may have been hiding a remarkable secret – she was a he.
An art historian claims the model in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was one of his male muses, a young man called Gian Giacomo Caprotti, whose nose and mouth bear striking similarities to those of Mona Lisa.
Similarities: Italian art historian Silvano Vinceti believes that the model for both the Mona Lisa and St John the Baptist (right) was Gian Giacomo Caprotti
Caprotti, who was also known as Salai, worked as an apprentice with the artist for more than two decades from 1490 and they were rumoured to have been lovers.
Some experts had already suggested Leonardo could have based his masterpiece on a self portrait.
But Silvano Vinceti, a researcher who has been analysing the painting using state-of-the-art high-magnification techniques, also claims to have found the letter ‘S’ in the model’s eyes, which may be a reference to Salai.
Self-portrait: Leonardo died in May 1519 aged 67 and was presumed to be homosexual
Several of Leonardo’s works, including St John the Baptist and a drawing called Angel Incarnate, are said to have been based on Salai.
Mr Vinceti, president of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, said these paintings depict a slender, effeminate young man with long auburn curls and almost identical facial features to the Mona Lisa.
‘Salai was a favourite model for Leonardo,’ he said. ‘Leonardo certainly inserted characteristics of Salai in the last version of the Mona Lisa.’
Most experts believe the model for the Mona Lisa, which hangs at the Louvre in Paris, was Lisa Gherardini, the 24-year-old wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant.
They say Leonardo started painting her in 1503. But Mr Vinceti claims he may have started in the late 1490s in Milan, coinciding with the time he built up a relationship with Salai.
His claims have caused a stir in the art world, with many dismissing the idea that Mona Lisa was a man. Da Vinci expert Pietro Marani said the theory was ‘groundless’.
The art professor at Milan’s Politecnico university said: ‘All Leonardo subjects look like each other because he represents an abstract ideal of beauty.
They all have this dual characteristic of masculine and feminine.
‘The work began as the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, but over the years it slowly turned into something else; an idealised portrait, not a specific one.
‘That’s also why you have this fascinating face that transcends time and transcends a specific person, and why all these theories keep piling up.’
It's a snail-paced solution to pollution problems.
But a St Petersburg waterworks is putting six giant gastropods to work monitoring emissions from a sewage incinerator.
The African snails, the size of small rats, are attached to sensors that will show them getting sick if they take in too much bad air.
Mollusc maintenance: Six African snails fitted with heart monitors and sensors are being used to monitor pollution levels at a sewage treatment site in St Petersburg
Snail sewage? Three of the creatures breathe clean air, while three have air from the chimney at the incineration plant
Environmentalists have said the move is just a publicity stunt aimed at distracting attention from unsafe practices at the incinerator.
But the company, Vodokanal, said it was a serious attempt to improve control over what comes out of the smokestack.
The plant uses conventional gauges to check emissions, but company officials said it also wanted to keep an eye on compounds that might be produced in concentrations too low for the gauges to detect or that could harm humans if combined with other substances.
Olga Rublevskaya, director of wastewater disposal at Vodokanal, said: 'Live organisms won't deceive anyone about the danger of pollution.
'This is very strict control for us. Now we are under the watch of snails and crayfish all the time!'
Sensitive: The company behind the scheme, Vodokanal, also uses crayfish to monitor water pollution
Accurate: The snails become sick if the quality of air is too toxic and were selected because they have lungs and breathe in a similar way to humans
The company is also using crayfish to monitor the quality of city water.
The snails, which grow up to eight inches long, live in a fish tank inside the city's Southwest Waste Water Treatment Plant.
They are attached to sensors that measure their heartbeat and other vital signs. Three breathe clean air, the other three diluted air coming from the plant's chimney.
If the sensors register an unfavourable change in their behaviour and condition, it would be an immediate signal that air coming from burnt sewage residue was dangerous.
'The African snails, which are able to live for up to seven years, will also help to test the influence of possible accumulating substances over a long period,' said Sergei Kholodkevich, an ecological researcher who dreamt up the idea of using the creatures.
Mr Kholodkevich, who works at an institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said he chose snails because they had lungs and breath air 'like people do'.
Novel approach: The South-West Waste Water Treatment Plant in St Petersburg, where the snails live
But Dmitry Artamonov, who heads Greenpeace's St Petersburg office, accused Vodokanal of hiding information about the plant's effects on the environment.
'The issue is that the local treatment facilities are meant for treatment of domestic waste, but not for treatment of industrial waste that contains toxic substances and also gets dumped into the sewage waters,' he said.
'As for snails, it can be hard for them to indicate the environmental danger immediately, because such substances as dioxins, for instance, can accumulate in an organism over a long period of time and only decades later provoke cancer.'
But its genome is not only unusually large but full of surprises.
'More than a third of Daphnia's genes are undocumented in any other organism - in other words, they are completely new to science,' said Dr Don Gilbert, one of the researchers from Indiana University.
Its peculiar genetic make-up mirrors unusual behaviour that has long been studied by scientists.
The animal has unique ways of responding to stress, with some species producing exaggerated tail spines, neck teeth or protective helmets when threatened by predators.
31,000 genes are packed into the water flea's DNA. Its peculiar genetic make-up mirrors unusual behaviour that has long been studied by scientists
Daphnia can also adapt to wide ranges in acidity, toxins, oxygen concentrations, food quality and temperature.
The creatures are able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. They thrive in the absence of males by clonal reproduction, until harsh environmental conditions favour the benefits of sex.
A high rate of gene duplication is the main reason why Daphnia has so many genes, say the researchers writing in the journal Science.
'We estimate a rate that is three times greater than those of other invertebrates and 30 per cent greater than that of humans,' said genome project director Dr John Colbourne, also from Indiana University.
The scientists hope that sequencing the Daphnia genome will lead to a better understanding of how organisms respond to environmental changes.