A Rediscovered Oil Sketch by Renowned 19th-Century Painter John Constable Has Fetched an Astonishing $245,000 at Auction


A oil sketch by John Constable that was found in a townhouse in Guernsey, U.K., has sold at a local auction house for £200,000 ($245,000). The impressive hammer price was roughly double the work’s presale estimate of between £80,000 and £120,000 ($98,000–$147,000).

“There was a great atmosphere in the sale room,” paintings specialist Jonathan Voak of Martel Maides Auctions told the . “Multiple telephone bidders and lots of people in the room who wanted to see it being sold. The interest has been phenomenal.”

The small-scale painting is by one of England’s most renowned 19th century landscape painters. It has been connected to his 1821 masterpiece in London’s National Gallery because it depicts the same building, Willy Lott’s charmingly pastoral cottage in Suffolk, but from a different angle. A figure chopping logs can also be seen, and experts believe the quick open-air sketch was made by Constable in situ.

Label shows early provenance of oil sketch by John Constable. Photo courtesy of Martel Maides Auctions.

The work’s whereabouts were unknown for nearly half a century, although it was recognized by experts thanks to a record in a rare Italian publication listing works by Constable from 1979. A label on the back of the frame traces the provenance back to the collection of Constable’s grandson Hugh Golding Constable, who sold it to the art dealership Leggatt Brothers.

The painting was rediscovered among a large number of items left behind by the deceased owner of an old house in Guernsey, an island near France’s northern coast that is part of the British Isles. The late occupant’s estate went to Martel Maides Auctions in St. Peter Port, whose team found it hanging “in a dark corner of the dining room,” according to Voak, speaking to theIt has since been dated to June 1814.

Though the final bidder has remained anonymous, Voak was able to reveal that they are a local. “I think people will be glad to hear it’s going to stay in Guernsey,” he said, noting that many locals had visited the auction house to see the work on public display in the lead up to the sale on September 21.


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