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Rare Constable sketches set to go under the hammer
DRAWINGS by world-renowned artist John Constable – including sketches of Colchester’s historic St Botolph’s Priory – have been unearthed.
Constable’s depictions of the Dedham Vale and the surrounding countryside were so iconic, the area became known as Constable Country.
Now 15 of his sketches spanning his career, which lay forgotten in a cupboard for 60 years, have been discovered and will go under the hammer next month. Estimates suggest they will fetch £50,000 between them.
An art lover, who has opted to remain anonymous, brought 20 drawings and watercolours to the front counter of Christie’s for a routine evaluation.
Experts discovered 15 of them were by the East Bergholt-born artist, who lived between 1776 and 1837 and whose father owned Flatford Mill, which is now a tourist attraction.
They include a series of sketches drawn in 1808 and 1809, among which is the postcard-sized “The Ruins of St Botolph’s Priory”, which could fetch £6,000.
The first Augustinian Order priory in the country, which dates back to the 11th century, is now viewed as a hidden gem at the edge of Colchester town centre.
Other drawings were preparatory sketches for famous works in Constable’s oevre.
Elm Trees in Old Hall Park, East Bergholt, made using a sheet of glass and ink, gives an insight into how the final work – now in London’s Victoria and Albert museum – was created.
Harriet Drummond, Christie’s international head of British drawings and watercolours, described the collection as a one-in-a-generation find.
She said: “Such a rare and interesting group of unrecorded drawings by the Master of English Landscape, has not appeared on the market since 1988.
“The drawing of Elm Trees in Old Hall Park is important as it shows Constable’s very precise technique developed to accurately record scale when working direct from nature.”