IN her hayday she counted Charlie Chaplin as a fan and Sarah Bernhardt and Maurice Chevalier as close friends.

Credited with being the first Spaniard to crack America as a singing star, Raquel Meller was even more famous back home in Spain.

So, now it seems entirely appropriate that a portrait of the former star, from Zaragoza, could be about to reach an estimated 250,000 euros at auction.

The painting ‘La Bella Raquel’ by Madrid painter Joaquin Sorolla is to go under the hammer at Bonhams next week.

A highly controversial figure Meller may even have been responsible for betraying the infamous spy Mata Hari to the French authorities.

She lived in France during the Spanish Civil War, before moving back to Barcelona, where she later died.

After beginning her career performing ‘couplets’, a popular yet risqué choice of genre, she went on to make her debut as a film actress in 1919.

Charlie O’Brien, of Bonhams, said: “We are very excited to be offering such a fresh and vibrant work.”

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