The 8 x 91/2in (20 x 24cm) drawing is part of a series of pencil sketches that Constable made of the Augustinian ruins c.1808. He sketched in Colchester on a number of occasions in the first half of his career, when he was still returning to Suffolk and Essex on a regular basis to stay with his family. Two smaller drawings are detailed in Graham Reynolds 1996 work The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable while a double-sided smaller drawing appeared at Christie’s in July 2012. The Rosberys drawing is dated September, 19, 1808.
Philip Wise, heritage manager at Colchester and Ipswich Museums, said: “This newly discovered drawing of the Priory is taken from a slightly different viewpoint to one already in the museum’s collections and together they form an important visual record of one of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings as it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century.”
The drawing, which had been authenticated by art historian Anne Lyles, had been estimated at £4000-6000 at Roseberys’ March 29 Old Master sale. Unsold on the day, Roseberys helped negotiate an after-sale deal between the vendor and the museum representatives for £4420 (including fees).
Lara L’vov-Basirov, head of sale for Old Master, British & European pictures, said: “Roseberys are absolutely thrilled that this re-discovered work on paper by Constable is returning home to Colchester.”
St Botolph’s Priory is an example of Norman architecture and was the first English Augustinian priory church, founded at the end of the eleventh century. It was badly damaged in the Siege of Colchester, during the English Civil War, and only the ruined remains of the nave of the priory’s church survive.
The drawing is being presented to Colchester Museums at Hollytrees Museum today (June 8).