London/Suffolk: Constable sketch fetches more than £660k at auction

A sketch of Helmingham Dell by John Constable

A sketch of Helmingham Dell by John Constable - Credit: Archant

A 200-year-old John Constable sketch which sold for only £294 as recently as 1964 was sold again yesterday, but this time it fetched an incredible £662,500 – nearly double the sum it had been expected to reach.

Before the auction, at Christie’s in London, the picture had been predicted to sell for between £250,000 and £350,00.

The current world auction record for a Constable painting is £22,441,250 – the sum paid at Christie’s in London on July 3, 2012, for a painting titled The Lock, which features Flatford Lock.

Christie’s confirmed that the drawing sold yesterday set a new world auction record for a Constable drawing.

The 21inches by 26ins pencil and grey wash sketch, entitled Helmingham Dell, Suffolk, was produced by Constable in July 1800, the month after his 24th birthday.

When the picture was originally auctioned at Christie’s in London on June 9,1964, it sold for only 280 guineas, or £294 in modern money.

Auctioneers Christie’s said: “The large and important drawing is one of two known to have been executed in Helmingham Park in July 1800.

“The subject clearly inspired Constable, who relished the sinuous form of the trees, rising up above the viewer and framing the central bridge.

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“This highly-finished work is one of the few dated drawings from this period and its continuing importance to the artist is demonstrated by the fact that over 20 years later Constable was to use it in the preparation of four oil paintings.”