Four Long-Lost Sketches by a Teenage John Constable, Forgotten for 200 Years and Found in a Scrapbook, Are Heading to Auction

The drawings were found in a book that was tucked in a family album.

The Mason Family Album will go on sale at Sotheby's this month. Courtesy Sotheby's.
The Mason Family Album will go on sale at Sotheby's this month. Courtesy Sotheby's.

Four drawings by the English artist John Constable have emerged after going unnoticed for more than 200 years. The drawing have been housed in a family album owned by the Masons of Colchester, who were related to the Constables by marriage.

The sketches include works done when the artist was still employed in the family business, when he was just 17 years old and supervising the family’s windmill. They’re among his earliest surviving works, and were found among dried leaves, other amateur artworks, poems, jokes, and ditties.

The album is estimated to sell for between £24,000 and £28,000 (about $32,000 to $37,400) when it heads to the auction block at Sotheby’s London, in an online sale November 27 to December 4.

“My colleagues and I were very excited by the reemergence of these lost drawings by John Constable—hidden and protected for two centuries in this very characterful album,” said Mark Griffith-Jones, a Sotheby’s specialist in British watercolors and drawings, in an email to Artnet News.

John Constable, <i>A Rural Landscape</i>, 1797. Courtesy Sotheby's.

John Constable, A Rural Landscape (1797). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The earliest drawing, A Rural Landscape (1794), done when the artist was 17, shows a bucolic scene in an oval format, with a team of horses pulling a carriage across a bridge amid a village. It was only five years later that Constable would start to train as an artist, at the Royal Academy. The Deserted Cottage (1797) forms the basis of Constable’s only surviving etching of the period.

The other two drawings are portraits of the artist’s younger brother Abram and his cousin Jane Anne Mason. The former relates to a Constable canvas from 1806 that remains part of the Constable collection, the latter to a portrait that currently hangs at 10 Downing Street.

It was Abram’s knack for business, according to Sotheby’s, that allowed Constable to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist.


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