Lot 62
  • 62

John Constable R.A. East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Constable
  • Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Croft (1755-1815)
  • later inscribed on a label attached to the backboard: This Painting painted by Mr Constable/ is the Private Property/ of the Countess of Dysart (1821)
  • oil on canvas
half length, wearing a cream dress with a rose at her breast


Commissioned by the sitter's sister, Magdalena, Countess of Dysart;
by descent to the sitter's brother, Henry Greswold Lewis, Malvern Hall, Warwickshire, 1829;
by inheritance to the Suckling family, Roos Hall (by 1830);
by descent to W.S. Suckling, Highwood, near Romsey (by 1939);
Anonymous Sale, Christie's London, 11 June 2003, lot 3 ( £29,000, bt. by the present owner)


R. Edwards, 'A Portrait by John Constable at the Tate Gallery,' Burlington Magazine, no. 434, vol. LXXIV, May 1939, p. 204;
G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 1996, Text Volume p. 117, no. 7.10, Plates Volume pl. 680

Catalogue Note

The beautiful Lady Elizabeth Croft was a daughter of David Lewis of Malvern Hall, Warwickshire. On 25th September 1795, she married Sir Herbert Croft, 5th Bt. as his second wife. Although Sir Herbert was much admired as an author (his works included Love and Madness, published in 1780) he frequently found himself in financial difficulties. The day after his marriage to Elizabeth he was arrested and imprisoned in Exeter jail, and his wife fled to Europe where she remained for the rest of her life.

In 1808 the Earl and Countess of Dysart invited the young artist John Constable to copy portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds in their collection. Perhaps under pressure from his parents who sincerely wished him to apply himself to portrait painting, Constable accepted the invitation. He also subsequently accepted a similar commission from Lady Heathcote. It is during Constable's time with the Dysarts that this portrait is believed to have been commissioned by Elizabeth's sister Magdalena, Countess of Dysart.[i] The portrait is based upon the earlier portrait of Elizabeth by the fashionable artist Daniel Gardner (now untraced, see Dr. G.C. Williamson, Daniel Gardiner, 1929, p. 7, illus.).

As C.R. Leslie suggests, "what he [Constable] learnt about the technique of flesh painting, how to build it up solidly, but so that it should be brilliant, not opaque, became of great value to him in enriching his skies."[ii] Portraits such as this are therefore integral to understanding the early developments of Constable as an artist. If this portrait and his later tender portrayals of his wife Maria Bicknell are considered together we can perhaps appreciate Constable's underestimated abilities as a portraitist.

[i] C.R. Leslie, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A., 1937, p. 25

[ii] C.R. Leslie, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A., 1937, p. 29.