The Coutts sailed down the Thames to Gravesend, whereupon Constable took the opportunity to walk to Rochester Castle. He then journeyed onto Chatham, where he recorded in a letter to his friend John Dunthorne (1770-1844) that he 'hired a boat to see the men-of-war, which are here in great numbers'.1 He created numerous drawings of these vessels, many of which have been preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.2 Amongst the most important sheets executed at this time, were three studies of the Nelson's Victory. These were sold at Sotheby's on 19 March 2003 as lots 138-140 and achieved £40,800, £216,160 and £95,200 respectively.
By the 30 April Constable had returned to the Coutts at Gravesend. The voyage continued and they sailed on past the Kentish Downs. At this point the weather turned stormy and the ship was forced to shelter for three days at North Foreland. Once they reached Deal, Constable, who was unsettled by the heavy seas, rapidly disembarked and headed straight for London.
This sheet has a long history and can be traced back to Constable's son, Charles who, serving in the navy, took a special interest in the Coutts drawings. In 1876, it was presented to the Scot, Arthur Henry Lyell, whose family seat is Kinnordy House in Angus. Arthur's elder brother was Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Bt. (1797-1875), the celebrated geologist and author. We are grateful for Dr Lyles for her help when cataloguing this work.
1. Ed. R.B. Beckett, John Constable's Correspondence: Early Friends and Maria Bicknell, vol. II, Ipswich 1964, pp. 33-5
2. G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, Yale 1996, no. 03.08, 03.11-22
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