Miniature John Constable drawings deliver a big result at Chiswick Auctions

A tiny John Constable sketch measuring 64 x 83mm that sold for £60,000 at Chiswick Auctions.

Two previously unpublished ink sketches by John Constable (1776 -1837) excelled at Chiswick Auctions’ latest British & European Fine Art sale.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

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The tiny compositional drawings in pen and brown ink on wove writing paper c.1832-35 were brought to the saleroom in a dusty cardboard box by Tam Fry, who had found them when clearing the home of his father, the late playwright Christopher Fry (1907-2005).

They were believed to have been bought in 1951 for £3. “We thought they were beautiful, but we never realised they were Constables,” he said.

Chiswick contacted Anne Lyles, the former Tate curator and Constable specialist, to fully catalogue the drawings. She described them as “exciting discoveries” and “small compositional drawings in pen, ink and wash which can be dated to Constable’s late period”.

The quickly rendered drawings of a wooded glade – possibly cut from a letter – are believed to be Constable’s early ideas for illustrating the scene of Jacques and the Wounded Stag from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Estimated to bring £5000-8000 each at the auction on March 6, two spirited bidding contests on several phones and the internet were won by a private collector.

One sketch measuring 47 x 77mm sold for £32,000 with the other, slightly larger at 64 x 83mm, hammered at £60,000.

The buyer’s premium was 25%.