A small painting bought as part of a £30 “job lot” at auction has turned out to be an original by the 19th century British artist John Constable and valued at £250,000.
Rob Darvell, 45, a graphic designer and
married father-of-two from East London was told the good news live
on BBC Breakfast by TV art and antiques expert Curtis
Curtis, promoting the new series
Treasure Detectives, said the postcard-size rural scene is
probably a view of Constable's home county Suffolk: "It's a
Constable and it's never been seen properly before, so it's part of
history, will cause a stir and become a celebrity item. A large
section of the art world will be salivating to get their hands on
it," he said.
Speaking after learning how much the picture
is worth, Rob said: "In the minutes leading up to the valuation, I
was so nervous that my heart was beating like crazy. Now I'm in a
state of shock. This news is everything I was hoping for, and
Rob's father Robin Darvell, a retired
consultant ophthalmic surgeon, bought the picture at an auction in
Canterbury 13 years ago. "It was in a cardboard box with other bits
and pieces (including a lamp and a couple of postcards) no-one else
seemed to want, sold at the end of the auction as a job lot," said
Rob. "Dad viewed the box before it came up for sale and spotted a
faint signature, J Constable, on the back of the frame. He
kept it for many years in a drawer by his fireplace at his home in
Ash, Kent, but he never hung it and hardly told anybody about it. I
believe my stepmum thought it was rubbish and said 'Don't be
stupid… of course it's not a Constable… get rid of it!'."
Above: Rob Darvell, left, holding the
painting, with Curtis Dowling.
Last October, Rob's father gave him the
picture, suggesting he research it.
"I kept it, in bubble wrap, in a drawer in
my house. Initially I did some research myself, but after a while I
contacted Curtis on the internet. And of course now I'm very glad I
Curtis said: "I spent the best part of ten
months examining this painting and its background, consulting over
30 experts and many more people besides. The picture passed every
single test we put it through, including the paint which is
consistent with the period and almost identical to the paint on a
Curtis believes it was painted for and owned
by Constable's father-in-law and then found its way to various
relatives in Suffolk before it moved down to Kent. It probably
depicts somewhere near East Bergholt, he said.
Curtis is now looking after the painting
until Rob and his family decide what to do with it. "I'm much more
nervous of handling the picture now," said Rob. "The frame is
falling apart a bit and it's all very delicate.
"It's moving to think such a great artist painted it. I suspect
we will want it hung in a gallery for a while, so the public can
see it, so we don't plan on selling it for the time being at least.
But, if it does get sold, the money will get split appropriately
among the family."