Constable’s ‘The Lock’ May Sell for $39 Million at Christie’s

"The Lock" by John Constable. The 1824 landscape was sold by Christie's International in its auction of Old Master and British paintings in London on July 3. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2012 via Bloomberg.

A John Constable painting owned by the widow of the Dutch-born industrialist and Old Master collector Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza may sell for as much as 25 million pounds ($39.2 million) at an auction.

Constable’s 1824 landscape “The Lock,” showing a figure struggling to open a canal gate, was one of six large-scale canvases of the River Stour that the artist exhibited to acclaim at the London Royal Academy between 1819 and 1825.

The work was bought by Baron Thyssen at Sotheby’s in 1990 for 10.8 million pounds, then a record for any British painting sold at auction. It is being re-offered by Christie’s International in its July 3 sale of Old Master pictures with a low estimate of 20 million pounds, the London-based company said today in an e-mailed statement.

Baron Thyssen was the heir to a fortune built from his Austro-Hungarian family’s business interests that included steel, armaments and naval construction. Carmen Cervera, a former Miss Spain, became his fifth wife in 1985.

The Baron’s collection of more than 1,600 Old Master and modern paintings is housed in a museum in Madrid that first opened to the public in 1992. He died in Spain in April 2002 at the age of 81. “The Lock” has been entered for sale from the private collection of Baroness Thyssen, Christie’s said.

The auction record for “The Lock” was set at a time when paintings by revered 19th-century British artists such as Constable and J.M.W. Turner were more popular with international collectors.

The price remains the highest paid for a Constable work at auction. In 1990, no work by Mark Rothko or Andy Warhol had sold for more than $5 million at a public sale. Since then, changing tastes among the world’s wealthiest art buyers have pushed the records for Rothko and Warhol to $86.9 million and $71.7 million respectively.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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