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Maria Bicknell was a daughter of the Solicitor to the Admiralty. Her grandfather was the rector of East Bergholt, where Constable first met her in 1800. The two fell in love in 1809 but, partly because of the rector's opposition, did not marry until 1816. Constable painted Maria’s portrait in July 1816, about three months before their marriage. In August Constable wrote to Maria from Suffolk: ‘I would not be without your portrait for the world the sight of it soon calms my spirit under all trouble’. Twelve years later Maria died from tuberculosis, leaving seven young children to Constable’s care.

May 2007