Saturday, 25 September 2021

‘Gloomy’ Constable sketch sold for £3.5m

A PAINTING sold by Lady Hambleden for £3,500 less than two years ago fetched almost £3.5 million at auction after

A PAINTING sold by Lady Hambleden for £3,500 less than two years ago fetched almost £3.5 million at auction after experts discovered it was the work of John Constable.

She said she was “never enamoured” with the oil on canvas work and it was left untouched in a cupboard at Hambleden Manor, her former home, for decades.

On Thursday last week it went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York for $5.2 million. The estimate on the sketch had been $2 to $3 million.

The painting was among valuables sold by Christie’s in London in the summer of 2013 following the sale of the manor after the death of Lady Hambleden’s former husband Viscount Hambleden.

She said: “I’ve seen the news but it’s really nothing to do with me anymore.

“After they discovered it was a Constable I suppose it’s not a surprise that it went for that amount.

“Obviously these figures stun anybody, you know.”

The painting is a preparatory sketch for one of Constable’s most celebrated masterpieces, Salisbury Cathedral From The Meadows, and was valued at between £500 and £800 by Christie’s which thought it was the work of a “follower”.

A collector bought it for £3,500 and then realised it had been heavily retouched.

Anne Lyles, a leading authority on Constable, said the painting was one of five preliminary oil sketches for his 1831 masterpiece, which was bought by the Tate Gallery in 2013 for £23.1 million.

She said it was “one of the most exciting and important additions” to Constable’s body of work to have emerged in decades. Lady Hambleden was in Rome visiting her brother when she learned the painting had been verified by an expert as a Constable.

“I had absolutely no idea, it was a total surprise,” she said. “I do recall the painting and I tell you what, it was so black and so gloomy and so sad that I never hung it anywhere in the house.

“All the other pictures I had in the house I had either restored or cleaned but this I never gave a thought. I was never enamoured by it.

“My mother-in-law, who was the Dowager Lady Hambleden, also didn’t hang it — it was always in this cupboard.”

Lady Hambleden married William Herbert Smith, the fourth Viscount Hambleden, in 1955. When the couple divorced in 1988, she remained in the manor while her ex-husband moved to America, where he died in August 2012, aged 82.

She sold the manor to a private buyer at the end of 2012 and moved to a cottage in the centre of the village. The following year she sold valuables, including paintings, tables, chairs, carpets and vases and raised just over £1.17 million.

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