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16th Aug 2021
John Constable Morning Cloud Before the Sun estimate 6000 8000

A rare painting by Suffolk artist John Constable is set to go under the hammer next month in Norfolk – nearly 60 years after the work was last up for sale.

‘Morning Cloud Before the Sun’, a small (19.5cm x 12.7cm) oil on board was last sold by Sothebys in London in 1964, when it went for £550 – equivalent to around £11,500 in today’s prices.  The picture has a conservative pre-sale estimate of £6,000-£8,000 – but experts at Keys say it could sell for much more than that.

It will be one of the star lots in Keys Auctioneers and Valuers’ Summer Fine Sale in September, which has been extended from its usual two days to three days due to the volume and quality of pictures which have been consigned to the auction – with works by Edward Seago, Anna Airy, Ronald Searle, Faraj Abou, Nicolaes Maes and John Joseph Cotman among the highlights.

“To have a painting in the sale by one of East Anglia’s most famous painters of all time is a real coup for us,” said Keys head of pictures Marc Knighton.  “We have worked with Sothebys and the British library to authenticate the provenance of the picture, which we know was at one time the property of the artist’s grandson Hugh Constable.

“Sotheby’s sold the painting in 1964 as part of the estate of the late collector Sir Bruce Ingram, and it has been in the same family ever since.  We have put a conservative pre-sale estimate on the picture, but it could well sell for much more with interest already coming from collectors around the world.

“The fact that the work has been consigned to us is a strong endorsement of Keys’ national standing in the Fine Art world, and comes after we were described as a ‘Top Tier’ UK auction house by leading trade publication Antiques Trade Gazette.”

Other highlights in the pictures section of Keys’ Fine Sale include:

  • A watercolour by Edward Seago entitled ‘Riverside, London’, with Battersea Power Station in the background, which has a pre-sale estimate of £5,000-£8,000
  • A portrait by pioneering female artist Anna Airy of Mrs David Ransome, Airy’s neighbour in Playford, Suffolk (estimate £2,500-£4,500)
  • A portrait by leading 17th century Dutch artist – and pupil of Rembrandt – Nicolaes Maes (estimate £6,000-£8,000)
  • A 17th century Italian School painting after Raphael of ‘St John the Baptist in the Wilderness’ (estimate £4,000-£6,000)

“Our reputation as one of the UK’s leading provincial auction houses continues to lead to serious works of art being consigned to our flagship sales,” said Keys managing director Tim Blyth. 

“The fact that such prestigious works are being entrusted to us shows that we are one of the few firms that can compete in the national and international stage with the large London auction houses.

“The fact that we have had to extend our summer Fine Sale to a third day shows the breadth and quality of lots which are being consigned, and for which we are finding buyers from right across the world.”

Keys’ three day Fine Sale takes place on Wednesday 1st, Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd September at the firm’s Aylsham salerooms, and online on Keys’ live online bidding platform KeysLive.  The paintings will go under the hammer on the Thursday.  Full details of the sale, and an online catalogue, can be found at www.keysauctions.co.uk.

John Constable

Born in East Bergholt in Suffolk in 1776, John Constable initially worked in the family’s corn merchant business, before leaving to pursue a career in art at the age of 23.  Although he made a living from painting portraits, it wasn’t until 1819 that he sold his first important canvas, ‘The White Horse’, and this marked a turning point in his career. 

Two years later he exhibited what would become his most famous picture ‘The Hay Wain’, which now hangs in the National Gallery in London.

In 1829, at the age of 52, he was elected to the Royal Academy, a position he held until his death in 1837, aged 60.  He is widely held to have revolutionised landscape painting during his life.