Christie’s Gets It Wrong As £900 Painting Is £1.5m Original Constable


A painting thought to be school of John Constable has been authenticated, as the real deal. Two years ago Christie’s Auctioneers in London attributed the landscape painting and valued it at just £600 -£900.

The painting was purchased by an anonymous collector for £3,500. However after close inspection, when the work was cleaned, the new owner of the work revealed that amateur restorers had covered over an authentic Constable.

The painting is thought to have been one of a series of study sketches that Constable executed before creating his masterpiece ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’, which is now in the Tate gallery collection. It was purchased last year for £25m  $40 million from a Christie’s sale. The newly attributed Constable painting will now go under the hammer at Sotheby’s NY, later this month, for an estimate of £1.5m /$2.3 million.

 A former curator of 18th and 19th century British art at Tate Britain, Anne Lyles said; The work was “heavily retouched” with a dark and opaque pigment which probably dated to the late 19th or early 20th century. “Thankfully the retouchings on the present painting were readily soluble in the course of its recent cleaning, and Constable’s original and brilliant conception has been once again revealed,” she added.

Lady Hambleden, 83, who consigned the Constable painting to Christie’s may now have a case for compensation as specialists apparently failed to spot that the painting of Salisbury Cathedral was an original, instead listing it as being done by “a follower of Constable”.

The artwork is believed to have been included in the private collection of William Henry Smith, the founder of the UK stationery chain. The collection, including a Constable work  sold in the Christie’s auction for 1.17 million pounds back in 2013.

John Constable John Constable (11 June 1776 – 31 March 1837) was an English Romantic painter. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home – now known as “Constable Country”- which he invested with an intensity of affection. “I should paint my own places best”, he wrote to his friend John Fisher in 1821, “painting is but another word for feeling”.

His most famous paintings include Dedham Vale of 1802 and The Hay Wain of 1821. Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable in British art, he was never financially successful and did not become a member of the establishment until he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52. He sold more paintings in France than in his native England.

Photo: courtesy Sotheby’s


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