A sketch by John Constable sold for £869,000 at Bonhams Old Master Paintings sale in London on 8 December, setting a new world record at auction for a small-scale sketch (under 10 inches) by the artist. Flatford Lock on the Stour looking towards Bridge Cottage, a study by Constable for Landscape: Boys Fishing, had been estimated at £200,000-300,000.The preparatory sketch, which had been in a private collection in the US for many years, was unknown to Constable scholars. Its re-emergence has been seen as a major contribution to establishing the genesis of the finished painting, Landscape: Boys Fishing, which is now in a poor state of preservation.
A 19th century label on the stretcher reads ‘”Flatford Lock” by John Constable R.A./Late the property of Miss Isabel Constable deceased.’ Isabel was Constable’s last surviving daughter; she never married and her siblings Lionel and Minna (Maria Louise) both left their share of their father’s studio to her. The year she herself died she bequeathed over four hundred oils, watercolours and sketches to the Victoria and Albert Museum and other institutions as well as gifting a number of works to her nephews. Additionally there was a show of works from her estate at the Grosvenor Galleries in 1889 followed by two sales at Christie’s in 1891 and 1892, giving some sense of the volume of material in her collection.
Bonhams Director of Old Master Painting, Andrew McKenzie said, “There was a huge amount of pre-sale interest in Flatford Lock on the Stour looking towards Bridge Cottage, reflected in an intense bidding war during the auction itself. Although the picture has undoubted art historical importance, it is first and foremost a beautiful painting – a Constable masterpiece in miniature – and I am not surprised that this exquisite work commanded such a high price.”
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Category: Fine Art