A book of poetry that kept John Constable a secret for a century could sell for £ 150,000 at the action


An old book of poetry is expected to sell for £ 150,000 after it was discovered to contain lost works of art by famous English landscape painter John Constable.

An auctioneer was doing a routine appraisal in a cottage when he spotted the 1836 illustrated edition of “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by poet Thomas Gray in a library.

He opened it and was amazed to find three Constable watercolors attached to the pages inside, next to a handwritten letter and ink sketch of him.

They refer to scenes artist Hay Wain was asked to illustrate for the reprint of the popular 1750 poem on Mortality and Remembrance.

One of the watercolors shows two soldiers jointly contemplating the grave of an English knight.

An illustrated 1836 edition of ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ by poet Thomas Gray is expected to sell for £ 150,000 after it was discovered to contain lost artwork by famous English landscape painter John Constable. Pictured: One of the watercolors which depicts two soldiers gazing in shared contemplation at the grave of an English knight

The others depict the ruins of a moonlit tower and a person reflecting in a cemetery as the sun rises over distant fields.

Constable’s letter, written in 1835, features a sketch of Stoke Poges cemetery, Bucks.

This is where Gray would visit the grave of his beloved aunt Mary Antrobus, whose death in 1749 inspired his work.

This book was the personal copy of publisher and bookseller John Martin, who commissioned Constable for the illustrated edition.

It contains 17 original paintings and drawings by artists including Constable, Charles Landseer, Peter De Wint and Richard Westall.

The saleswoman, who lives in a cottage in the south-east of England, had no idea what the book contained.

She is now selling it with auctioneers Gorringe’s, Lewes, East Sussex and the sale takes place on Tuesday 29 June.

The one-time edition of the book of poetry contained three watercolors by Constable, as well as other artists, as well as a handwritten letter, written in 1835, with an ink sketch of Stoke Poges cemetery, Bucks (pictured)

The one-time edition of the book of poetry contained three watercolors by Constable, as well as other artists, as well as a handwritten letter, written in 1835, with an ink sketch of Stoke Poges cemetery, Bucks (pictured)

The art was found in the book of poetry (pictured) which was originally the personal copy of publisher and bookseller John Martin, who commissioned Constable to the illustrated edition, and it has not been discovered on a bookcase in a Sussex cottage for many years.

It contains 17 original paintings and drawings by artists including Constable, Charles Landseer, Peter De Wint and Richard Westall

The art was found in the Book of Poetry (left), originally the personal copy of bookseller John Martin, who commissioned Constable to the illustrated edition, before it was discovered on a bookshelf in a Sussex cottage for many years.

Philip Taylor of Gorringe’s said: “Discovered during a routine appraisal visit, this unique edition of Gray’s Elegy is owned by a private seller – the owner until now was unaware of the importance of waiting. patiently in his library.

“Estimated between £ 100,000 and £ 150,000, this represents a truly unique opportunity to acquire a body of work compiled by one of Britain’s most beloved and famous artistic sons.”

Upon publication, Gray’s Elegy quickly rose to popularity and was considered “the best known and beloved poem in English”.

Constable is famous for his landscape paintings and is recognized as one of Britain's greatest.  Pictured: oil painting of John Constable by Ramsay Richard Reinagle which is in the National Portrait Gallery, London

Constable is famous for his landscape paintings and is recognized as one of Britain’s greatest. Pictured: oil painting of John Constable by Ramsay Richard Reinagle which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London

The illustrated edition of 1836 was reportedly funded by the poet and banker Samuel Rogers.

Constable (1776-1837) is best known for his landscape paintings, including Wivenhoe Park (1816), Dedham Vale (1821), and The Hay Wain (1821).

He was not financially successful during his lifetime, but has since been recognized as one of the greatest.

One of his paintings, The Lock (1824), sold for £ 22.8million at auction in 2012.

Joseph Trinder, auctioneer at Gorringe, said: “The pieces are intertwined in the book, which means they are set in the pages next to the poetry stanzas they illustrate.

“They reflect some of Constable’s later work and his relatively lesser-known role as an illustrator – an important part of his work.

“Our response to this discovery is one of great excitement and humble appreciation.

“Constable is one of the best known and celebrated names in the art market. Finding these pieces patiently waiting on a shelf during a routine assessment was therefore a very special moment. ”


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