John Constable painting was sold in 2013 for $5,212
"Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows" fetched $5.2 million this week
Experts at rival auction houses disagree on the painting's authenticity
An art enthusiast paid $5,212 in 2013 at a London auction for a painting of an 19th-century English landscape.
That price was well above Christie’s auction house estimated value of $760 to $1,200.
This week, however, the painting’s price jumped dramatically – 1,000 times its previous value – at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.
It sold Wednesday for $5.2 million.
The discrepancy in the value of “Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows” is due to a difference of opinion by art experts at the rival auction houses.
Christie’s analyzed the painting in 2013 and declared that it was the work of a follower of John Constable – not a creation of the famed English Romantic landscape artist himself.
But Sotheby’s claimed it was an original Constable made in preparation for another work owned by the Tate gallery in London.
The auction house valued the painting at between $2 million and $3 million.
Anne Lyles, former 18th and 19th century British art curator at the Tate, wrote in catalog for the Sotheby’s auction that “the present work by Constable was heavily retouched with a dark and opaque pigments which probably dated to the late 19th or early 20th century, in a misguided attempt to ‘finish’ the painting.”
Lyles wrote that this was the reason why Christie’s “overlooked” its authenticity in 2013.
“The retouchings on the present painting were readily soluble in the course of its recent cleaning, and Constable’s original and brilliant conception has been once again revealed,” Lyles wrote.
Christie’s, however, said that experts disagree about the painting’s authenticity.
“We are aware that Sotheby’s have sold this work as by Constable,” the auction house said in a statement. “We took the view at the time of our sale in 2013 that it was by a ‘follower of.’ We understand that there is no clear consensus of expertise on the new attribution.”
Lyles wrote that the painting recently sold was one of five preliminary oil sketches, precursors to “perhaps the greatest of his late masterpieces,” a work that goes by the same name.
According to Sotheby’s, it is believed the sketch was possibly sold by the artist in 1837 for 6 pounds – or about $9 today.
John Constable (1776-1837) was famous for his landscapes of the English countryside, particularly scenes of his native Suffolk.
In 2012, the Constable painting “The Lock” became one of the most expensive British paintings ever sold, fetching £22.4m ($34.8 million) at an auction at Christie’s in London.