It’s the art market equivalent of hitting the jackpot. The lucky buyer who dropped just $5,300 (£3,500) on a small oil study then attributed to “a follower of John Constable” at Christie’s London last year is set to cash in. The work now bears an estimate of $2 million–3 million, having been confirmed as a work by Constable. It will be on offer at Sotheby’s New York’s January 29 master paintings sale.
Sotheby’s catalogue entry describes it as “a rediscovered preparatory work for one of John Constable’s most celebrated masterpieces,” Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831), now in the collection of Tate Britain. The text was penned by Anne Lyles, Tate’s former curator of 18th- and 19th-century British art. The drastic jump in value (the high estimate is over 500 times the amount of the 2013 sale) demonstrates the impact that an auction house’s stamp of approval has on such works in the marketplace. Even the relatively modest 2013 price suggests that maybe the bidders knew what they were looking at: the work more than quadrupled its high estimate of $1,200 (£800).
According to Lyles, the sketch is one of five preliminary drawings the artist made for Salisbury Cathedral. “The recent emergence of this sketch from the Hambleden collection, where it was completely unknown to scholars, reveals its key role in establishing the dramatic and beautiful chiaroscuro of the final picture,” writes Lyles. Christie’s auctioned off the collection of Viscount Hambleden, including the newly christened Constable, in summer 2013.
According to Sotheby’s, the first transfer of the oil study may have been part of Constable’s sale at Fosters in London on May 16, 1837, when it sold for £6.10.
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