John Constables Flatford Lock on the Stour looking towards Bridge Cottage, a sketch of one of his favoured spots. Flatford Mill belonged to Constable’s father, and the tenant family who lived there are visible beyond the lock. The painting is estimated at £200,000-300,000 at Bonhams’ Old Master sale in December.

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Flatford Lock on the Stour looking towards Bridge Cottage was made in preparation for Landscape: Boys Fishing, Constable’s submission to the Royal Academy in 1813. It shows Flatford Lock, one of Constable’s favoured sites which he depicted in works now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate and the Royal Academy.

Bonhams director of Old Master painting Andrew McKenzie said that there-emergence of “this magical small canvas must now be regarded as the most substantial surviving record of the exhibited work”.

The finished painting Landscape: Boys Fishing but due to the condition of the work, details of the picture are largely known from mezzotint and four other preparatory oil sketches.   

The preparatory work at Bonhams had been kept in a private collection overseas and was unknown to modern scholars of Constable’s works.

It was originally in the collection of Isabel Constable, the artist’s daughter, and then is thought to have been included either in the sale of her estate in 1891 and ’92 or in her bequests to her nephews. It was subsequently purchased by collector Victoria Bray in the early 1940s and passed by descent on her death in 1961 to the consignor.

Measuring 7 x 10in (18 x 25cm), the sketch “conveys all the brilliance of Constable’s full-scale masterpieces,” McKenzie added.

 It will be offered at Bonhams’ Old Master Paintings sale takes place on December 8 in its New Bond Street saleroom.