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Constable's celebrated composition reappears on the market for the first time in 160 years
John Constable, The Lock, Oil on canvas, 139.7 by 122 cm.; 55 by 48 in. (est. £8-12 million). Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Next week, The Lock, one of John Constable’s most famous compositions will reappear on the market for the first time in 160 years. The monumental landscape - depicting the countryside of the painter’s “careless boyhood” - will lead Sotheby’s London Evening auction of Old Master & British Paintings on 9th December. The sale will be further distinguished by museum-quality works, an unusually large number of which are from private collections and come to the market for the first time in several generations. These include two major Italian views by Vanvitelli, one of the last and finest depictions of the Madonna and Child by Jan Gossaert remaining in private hands, a late portrait of Henry VIII - among the greatest ever to appear on the market - and a masterful and famed portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria by the court painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck.

Discussing the forthcoming sale, Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department said: “John Constable said it was the landscape of Essex and Suffolk, where he grew up, that 'made him a painter'. In 'The Lock', his intimate knowledge and love of this countryside is transformed through his mastery of painting into an icon of British Art. Alongside this masterpiece the sale features seminal works by earlier masters: from Jan Gossaert's 'Madonna and Child', a jewel of Northern Renaissance painting, and Anthony van Dyck's stately portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, to stunning landscapes by Vanvitelli, the father of European view painting”.

“I was never more fully bent on any picture... my friends tell me it is my best.” John Constable

Painted circa 1824-5 when Constable was at the height of his powers, The Lock is one of only three major works by Constable left in private hands. This iconic image is the fifth in the series of six monumental landscapes popularly known as the artist’s ‘Six-Footers’, which for many define the pinnacle of Constable’s career. Together with his near contemporary, J. M. W. Turner, Constable was one of the most original artists of the early 19th century. Between them the two artists revolutionised the art of landscape painting forever, setting in train a movement that would find its fullest expression with the Impressionists. Constable is arguably the greatest ‘English’ painter in that his oeuvre represents the quintessential vision of English countryside the world over.

Depicting a bucolic scene on the River Stour in the artist’s native Suffolk, and painted in response to the huge critical acclaim that greeted Constable's first treatment of the composition (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824), the picture to be offered this December was treasured by the artist. Retained by him in his studio until the end of his life, singled out by him for prestigious exhibitions, it was chosen as the basis for the engraving that was to make it among the most familiar and celebrated images in the canon of British art. Having remained in the same family collection for over 150 years, it now comes to the market for the first time since 1855 with an estimate of £8-12 million.

‘I should paint my own places best – Painting is but another word for feeling. I associate my ‘careless boyhood’ to all that lies on the banks of the Stour. They made me a painter...’

Two panoramic views of Florence and Naples form part of a series of vedute of great importance that were commissioned from Gaspar van Wittel - better known by his Italian sobriquet Vanvitelli - by the 9th Duke of Medinaceli, Viceroy of Naples, in around 1700. These works of ambitious scale and impressive dimensions (71 by 170 cm.; 28 by 67 in.) have never before been offered on the open market, having remained in the family of the Duke’s direct descendants until recently.

The rediscovery of the view of Florence (est. £1-1.5 million) represents the most significant addition to the relatively few views of the city and its surroundings painted by Vanvitelli. The beautiful panoramic view of the Bay of Pozzuoli, just to the west of Naples (est. £800,000-1,200,000) is unique and exists in no other versions by the artist. The artist’s views of Italy and most notably those from his commission for the Duke of Medinaceli represent a crucial stage in the development of the veduta.

This beautifully preserved picture is the most significant early Netherlandish painting to come to the auction market in the 21st century. It is just one of only two depictions of the Madonna and Child painted by Jan Gossaert, called Mabuse, in the 1520s and 1530s remaining in private hands. It hung in the National Gallery in London on loan from 1993 to 2012 and was included in the landmark exhibition there in 2011. Together with the exhibition devoted to the Flemish Master at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2010, the National Gallery show allowed a wider public to appreciate to the full genius of this great Renaissance artist. Gossaert was the first Netherlandish painter fully to embrace Italian Renaissance modes of depiction and his strikingly original paintings and drawings are instantly recognisable, as reflected in this picture (est. £4-6 million).

The sale is also highlighted by a series of exceptional portraits. Among them is one of the greatest images of Henry VIII ever to emerge onto the market. Painted circa 1542, this imposing portrait is the last official image of the King’s reign. Formerly in the collection of the Earls of Warwick, it is also the last royal image issued from the studio of the celebrated court painter Hans Holbein the Younger. Some three hundred years after it was painted, its likeness had not lost its power to impress. The great German art historian Gustav Waagen, who saw it in 1835, remarked: “There is in these features a brutal egotism, an obstinacy, and a harshness of feeling, such as I have never yet seen in any human countenance. In the eyes, too, there is the suspicious watchfulness of a wild beast, so that I became quite uncomfortable from looking at it a long time; for the picture, a masterpiece of Holbein, is as true in the smallest details as if the king himself stood before you.”

By the time this portrait was painted, the King would have been in his early fifties, recovering not only from a serious jousting accident but the breakdown of his fifth marriage to Catherine Howard, whom he had executed in the winter of 1542.

Despite Holbein’s privileged position in the service of the Crown, portraits of Henry VIII by Holbein or his studio are extremely rare and only a small handful can be shown to have been painted while the artist was still alive - the present portrait among them (est. £800,000-1,200,000).

Also offered is a spectacular and famed portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s. Daughter of Henri IV of France and Navarre, and Maria de’ Medici, Henrietta Maria married Prince Charles, later King Charles I, in 1625. A relentless supporter of her husband, she is depicted here expecting the impending arrival, on 17 March 1637, of her sixth child, Princess Anne.

Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s portraits of Queen Henrietta Maria are extremely rare. The artist only produced four independent prototypes of the queen, of which this work is the last. The first version of this picture was painted in 1636-37 for Cardinal Francesco Barberini. It was probably intended as a gift for the ‘Cardinal Protector of England’ from the Queen herself (a devout Catholic who was regarded in Rome since her marriage to Charles I as the guardian angel of English Catholics). Barberini also supervised the commission to Bernini for marble busts of both the King and Queen, for which Van Dyck painted portraits as a guide.

Acquired by the 2nd Earl of Warwick (1746–1816), who amassed possibly the greatest collection of portraits ever seen in England, it is believed to have been extended by Sir Joshua Reynolds to its present dimensions in the late 18th century.

Estimated at £1.5-2.5 million, this magnificent painting inspired several later studio copies which feature today in the prestigious collections at Eastnor Castle, at Wilton House and the National Portrait Gallery, London.

This Portrait of a man, said to be Raphael Raggio was almost certainly produced during Van Dyck’s stay in Genoa, where the painter gained a vast amount of commissions from wealthy patrons in 1625-27. Although the identification of the sitter is uncertain, it has been suggested that the figure is the model for the artist’s imaginary portrait of Prefect Raffaele Raggi in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (est. £400,000-600,000).

2015 is the 400th anniversary of Govert Flinck's birth, and his quadricentenary has been marked by two exhibitions: one in his birthplace of Cleves; the other in Birmingham at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Like many of Rembrandt's best pupils, Flinck evolved a style that is distinctive and personal, while remaining palpably Rembrandtesque. This work is an outstanding example of his tronie paintings (fancy-dress studies, based on a real likeness) of the first half of the 1640s (est. £200,000-300,000).

This Betrayal of Christ may well be the earliest night scene in Northern European panel painting. It is the left wing of a small triptych commissioned in Paris at the end of the 1440s or around 1450 by Dreux Budé, who is here portrayed kneeling with his son. The central panel of the Crucifixion is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the right wing, depicting the Resurrection and including the sitter’s wife Jeanne Peschard and her daughters presented by Saint Catherine, is in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier. The three panels were re-united for the first time in Chicago Art Institute exhibition Kings, Queens and Courtiers. Art in Early Renaissance France in 2011.

The Master of the Dreux Budé Triptych was probably also responsible for the design and part of the execution of the Crucifixion of the Parlement of Paris in the Louvre, Paris, which is perhaps the most celebrated of all Parisian 15th-century panel paintings (est. £400,000-600,000).

A master of subtle chiaroscuro, Joseph Wright of Derby is one of the most important of the late 18th-century artists who define the British Romantic movement. Painted in 1780, and exhibited at the Royal Academy that year, this painting is one of a distinguished group of works inspired by the artist's travels in Italy, and demonstrates the profound impact which that experience had on his art. Based on a detail drawing done on the spot in 1774, the painting depicts a cavern in the Gulf of Salerno, near Naples, and is as startling for the originality of its composition as it is for the exquisite treatment of light.

Representing the apex of Wright’s creative engagement with the subject of Neapolitan caverns, the work has been donated to The United Society (Us) and will be auctioned in order to raise funds for the relief of the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe (est. £100,000-150,000).

Today's News

December 1, 2015

Constable's celebrated composition reappears on the market for the first time in 160 years

Exhibition of new drawings by German artist Georg Baselitz on view at Gagosian New York

Mao Zedong letter to Labour Party leader Clement Attlee set for auction at Sotheby's London

Thames & Hudson reissues "The Essential Joseph Beuys" to mark the 30th anniversary of Beuys's death

Major solo exhibition of video and performance artist Alex Bag debuts at ICA Miami

Arthur Miller play "No Villain", written as a 20-year-old student, to premiere in Britain

Japanese manga artist Mizuki, known for his comics of ghosts and monsters, dies at 93

Art Dubai announces galleries participating in its 10th edition taking place March 16-19, 2016

Johnnie Walker heir's Aston Martin DB5 offered at Bonhams' Bond Street Sale

£2.5 million funding for poppies tour announced in government's spending review

Exceptional selection of Israeli & international art to be offered at Sotheby's New York on 17 December

Kenny Scharf's "Cosmic Cavern" immerses viewers in a day-glo universe at the Portland Art Museum

Leadership insight from top museum directors revealed in new book published by the High Museum of Art

Bonhams presents the Elegant Home, an interior designer's top resource for high-end luxury

First woman owned art fair debuts with big names

Noemi Niederhauser's first solo exhibition with Chabah Yelmani Gallery opens in Brussels

New Perspectives: 8 contemporary artists from Ukraine exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute

Exhibition of new work by Emmanuelle Lainé on view at MOT International in Brussels

Brooklyn based artist James Hyde exhibits at David Risley Gallery

Solo exhibition of Sama Alshaibi's work on view at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai

Frist Center's new Kid-Centric website offers engaging at-home activities, lesson plans and more

Chris "Daze" Ellis: The City is My Muse on view at the Museum of the City of New York

Profiles in History announces auction of rare animation & Disneyana

Beloved Russian filmmaker Ryazanov dies

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