Constable sketch discovered in a suitcase heads for auction (again)

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A sketch by the artist John Constable discovered during a house clearance has been consigned to auction with an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000—just two years after it was bought by a collector in north Yorkshire. The work will go under the hammer at David Duggleby auctioneers in Scarborough on 15 September. In 2021, it was sold by the auction house for £2,000.

Under provenance for the work, the auction house states online: “Deceased estate/house clearance in the Leeds/York area, located in a suitcase with broken glass, back opened and glass replaced prior to auction.” Previously the sketch was available with the Little Gallery in London which specialised in the 1970s in “big name artists but the pictures were often sketches”, the entry continues.

The pencil sketch, a view across Dover harbour towards the castle above the town, is one of a series of sketches the artist made in April 1803 during a voyage on the East India Company ship Coutts from London to Deal in Kent.

Constable is believed to have made numerous trips on the ship. In a letter to his friend John Dunthorne dated 23 May 1803, Constable wrote: “I came on shore at Deal, walked to Dover (about one and a half hours) and the next day returned to London.”

Dominic Cox, of the auctioneers David Duggleby, told the Yorkshire Post: “The sketch is a detailed view across the water of Dover harbour towards the quayside buildings, with the castle high above the town and the cliffs stretching away into the distance. The location is identified at the bottom right and the year is lightly marked in the sky top right.”

According to the auction house, the back of the drawing is inscribed “J Constable” probably in the handwriting of John Fisher, his friend and patron, who dispersed many of Constable’s sketches and scrapbooks after his death.

In 2014, a sketch thought to be a preparatory work for Constable’s The Hay Wain (1821) sold for £42,000 at Cheffins auctioneers in Cambridge.

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