A PAINTING by the leading Scottish artist Sir David Wilkie, thought to be lost for more than 140 years, has been acquired and put on show at the National Gallery in London.

The work, titled A Young Woman Kneeling at a Prayer Desk was discovered in the USA after last being heard of in 1872, when it was put up for sale by a relative of the 1st Earl Mulgrave.

A London art dealer, Ben Elwes, spotted the painting in a catalogue for a sale in New York.

It is only the second ­Scottish work to enter the National Gallery collection, the first being The Archers by Sir Henry Raeburn, acquired in 2001.

The National Gallery has bought the painting for £200,000 through a gift given to the institution by Marcia Lay, a Birmingham art teacher, who left a "generous gift" in her will to the gallery.

Mr Elwes said: "I know the work of Wilkie very well and I could see straight away that this was a painting of very great quality. It was tremendously exciting to make this discovery."

Wilkie, from Fife who lived from 1785 to 1841, gained success as an artist at an early age: he was only twenty one when he was commissioned to create works for Sir George Beaumont - a major sponsor behind the creation of the National Gallery - and the 1st Earl of Mulgrave.

Wilkie was elected to the Royal Academy and attracted the attention of the Prince Regent: in 1823 Wilkie was appointed King's Limner for Scotland; in 1830 he was appointed Painter in Ordinary to King George IV, and reappointed by King William IV, by whom he was knighted.

His death while travelling in the Mediterranean was recorded by JMW Turner in his painting Peace: Burial at Sea.

The UK Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "This acquisition is a fantastic example of legacy giving and one that I hope will inspire others to do the same.

"Thanks to the wonderful generosity of Marcia Lay, an art teacher, this beautiful painting will be seen and enjoyed by a huge audience for the first time."