AN HISTORIC painting that has been housed in Towneley Hall, in Burnley, will be packed away today to depart for a landmark exhibition in the United States.

The painting of Charles Townley is one of the country’s most iconic, and important, paintings.

It features collector Townley in his London house, surrounded by an imaginary arrangement of his sculptures.

Engaged in discussion with him are three fellow connoisseurs, the palaeographer Charles Astle, the Hon Charles Francis Greville, and Pierre-François Hugues D’Hancarville.

The classical marbles were sold to the British Museum in 1805.

The painting, by 18th Century artist Johan Zoffany, will be exhibited at the Yale Center for British Art, part of the world-famous Yale University, over the next five months.

After that it will be transported back across the Atlantic to the Royal Academy of Art in London, where it will be displayed from March to October 2012.

Yale is covering the cost of transporting, and exhibiting, the painting.

A spokesman at Towneley Hall said: “The painting, ‘Charles Townley and his friends in his library at Park Street, Westminster’, is currently hung in the art gallery at Towneley Hall. Zoffany was a German artist who studied and painted the English aristocracy, including Burnley’s Charles Townley.

“Charles Townley was a country gentleman and antiques collector.

“Townley asked his friend Zoffany to paint the picture of him sitting in his library at his London home, inspecting his collection of sculptures with his friends.”

A specialist transportation firm will be packing the painting today and it will be flown out to America tomorrow.

Zoffany was born in 1733 in Germany. His father, Anton Zauffaley, was a carpenter at the courts of Prince Alexander Ferdinand, in Frankfurt and Regensburg. After studying in Germany and Rome, he moved to London in 1760, finding work painting pastoral scenes for the clockmaker Stephen Rimbault He became a popular portrait artist, rivalling the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, and had many important clients.

In Florence, he painted the Grand Duke’s renowned collection of paintings in the gallery of the Uffizi, known as The Tribuna.

He later became Baron von Zoffany and spent six years in India before returning to England.

He died at his home in London in November 1810.