Lot 191
  • 191

JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A. | Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Croft (1754–1815)

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Constable
  • Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Croft (1754–1815)
  • inscribed lower left: Elizth. Lewis, Wife to / Sir Herbert Croft Bart.
  • oil on canvas, unlined
  • 76.8 x 64.1 cm.; 30 1/4  x 25 1/4  in.


Probably commissioned by the sitter's brother, Henry Greswold Lewis (1754–1829), Malvern Hall;
Thence by descent to Mr W. Suckling Suckling, at Highwood, near Romsey, where recorded in 1939 by R. Edwards (see Literature); 
Possibly anonymous sale ('The Property of a Lady'), London, Sotheby's, 7 April 1954, lot 93;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 11 June 2003, lot 3.


R. Edwards, 'A Portrait by John Constable in the Tate Gallery', in The Burlington Magazine, no. 434, vol. LXXIV, May 1939, p. 204, footnote 8;
G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 2 vols, New Haven and London 1996, text vol., p. 117 (as another version by the artist).

Catalogue Note

In 1807, at a time when Constable’s work was struggling to gain critical recognition, the artist was introduced to the Tollemache family at Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, home of the Earl and Countess of Dysart. Recognising a precocious young talent the family commissioned Constable to make copies of portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Hoppner and Daniel Gardner in their collection. No doubt encouraged by his parents, who had been pushing Constable to apply himself to portraiture – a financially more secure and steady line of art than landscape painting – the artist accepted. This associating with the Dysarts led to further important commissions from their friends and family, including the Countess’s brother, Henry Greswold Lewis, whose country house, Malvern Hall, in Warwickshire, Constable painted in 1809 and again in 1819. This portrait represents the Countess of Dysart’s sister, Elizabeth Lewis, wife of the author Sir Herbert Croft, 5th Bt. (1751–1816), and is based upon an earlier portrait by Daniel Gardner (Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan). The duty stamp on the reverse of the unlined canvas suggests that the picture was painted circa 1807, and certainly not before. Another version of this portrait by Constable was sold in these rooms, 22 November 2007, lot 62 and again at Christie’s, London, 9 December 2016, lot 168, for £81,250.

The provenance of the two paintings has been confused in both the literature and past sale catalogues. Constable often painted repetitions of his Dysart/Lewis/Tollemache family pictures, commissioned by various different members of the family. The picture that was recently sold at Christie’s can be securely traced, thanks to an illustration in the catalogue, to a sale at Sotheby’s on 10 December 1925, lot 125, to which it was consigned by Mrs Hugh Gurney, wife of Captain Hugh Gurney, a descendant of Henry Greswold Lewis, the sitter’s brother. A label on the reverse of the canvas, dated 1821, states that it was the property of the Countess of Dysart.1 Both Lewis's sisters who held the title Countess of Dysart died without children and the picture was therefore presumably inherited by him upon their death. Ralph Edwards makes it clear, however, that this picture was at Highwood, near Romsey, in 1939 and states that it was commissioned by Henry Greswold Lewis directly for Malvern Hall.2

We are grateful to Anne Lyles for endorsing the attribution to Constable following first-hand inspection.

1 To add to the confusion, both Elizabeth's elder sisters held the title Countess of Dysart; Magdalena having married Lionel Tollemache, 5th Earl of Dysart (1734–1799), and Anna Maria having married Wilbraham Tollemache (1739–1821), who succeeded his brother as 6th Earl of Dysart in 1799.
2 See Edwards 1939, p. 204, footnote 8.