John Constable

Study of a Girl in a Cloak and Bonnet


On loan

Mitsubishi Ichigokan (Tokyo, Japan): Constable and England: A History of His Affections

John Constable 1776–1837
Oil paint on board
Support: 316 × 175 mm
frame: 360 × 210 × 40 mm
Purchased 1983

Display caption

Small figure studies in oil by Constable are rare, and this is the only known dated example. It was made in 1810, and illustrates his interest at that period in observing  figures out of doors. Earlier that same year he had exhibited a painting at the Royal Academy of the Church Porch, East Bergholt (Tate, shown to the left/right) which includes a similar figure to this one, shown seated by a gravestone.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Oil on millboard 12 7/16 × 6 7/8 (316 × 175)
Inscribed ‘E Bergholt 1810-’ b.l. and ‘Minna. Dcr 27th 47’ in a later hand on the back
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Prov: Allocated to the artist's daughter Maria Louisa (‘Minna’) in a division of the family collection 27 December 1847 (see inscription); inherited on her death in 1885 by her brother Lionel and sister Isabel and on Lionel's death in 1887 by Isabel alone; she died 1888; said (see below) to have been included in one of the sales of her collection (Christie's 28 May 1891, 17 June 1892) and to have been bt by Thomas J. Barratt;...; Kojiro Matsukata, sold c. 1930 to another Japanese collector, from whom bt 1954 by Tokuzo Mizushima and offered for sale, Sotheby's 2 March 1983 (75, repr. in col.), bt in and sold privately to the Tate Gallery
Lit: Leslie Parris, ‘Some recently discovered oil sketches by John Constable’, Burlington Magazine, CXXV, 1983, p.223, fig.40

Constable spent the late summer and autumn of 1810 in his native Suffolk, going down to East Bergholt sometime in August and returning to London by 11 November (R.B.Beckett, John Constable's Correspondence, Ipswich, I, 1962, pp.49–50, IV, 1966, p.19). One or two dated works from this visit are known, including oil sketches made at Flatford and Bergholt on 27 and 30 September respectively (Johnson Collection, Philadelphia; exh. Constable, Tate Gallery 1976, nos.92–3) but the bulk of the work Constable did during his stay is less directly identifiable. Almost certainly he was making some of the oil sketches later used for ‘Flatford Lock and Mill’, exhibited in 1812 as ‘A Watermill’ (currently on anon. loan to the Corcoran Gallery, Washington) and - a more immediate concern - preparing for his first major exhibition picture, the ‘Dedham Vale: Morning’ shown in 1811 (Private Coll., exh. Constable, Tate Gallery 1976, no.100). Although not on a large scale, the figures of country people walking along a lane or resting beside it play an important part in the latter picture and in the several oil studies connected with it. Without being related to the composition, T03607 also illustrates Constable's interest at this time in figures seen in the open. Earlier in 1810 he had exhibited ‘The Church Porch, East Bergholt’ (Tate Gallery), which includes a similar figure of a seated girl.

Very few figure studies in oil by Constable are known and T03607 appears to be the only dated example. The others include ‘Mary Constable in a Red Cloak’ (R. Hoozee, L'opera completa di Constable, Milan 1979, no.106), ‘Study of a Seated Man’ (, ‘A Girl in a Bonnet’ (ibid. no.520) and ‘A Girl in a White Bonnet’ (Sotheby's 2 March 1983 lot 76, and 16 November 1983 lot 94).

The history of T03607 after Isabel Constable's death is a little uncertain. A label on the back is inscribed ‘By John Constable R.A. | Bought at his daughter's | sale (Isabella Constable)’ followed in a different hand by a nearly illegible signature. The most likely reading of the latter seems to be ‘Thomas Barratt’, i.e. Thomas J. Barratt of the firm of A. & F. Pears, who is known to have owned works by or attributed to Constable. However, it has not been possible to identify the work in either of Isabel Constable's sales or in records of Barratt's collection. Similar labels occur on five other works by John or Lionel Constable offered for sale with T03607 at Sotheby's on 2 March 1983, including the ‘Girl in a White Bonnet’ mentioned above. All six were at one time in the collection of the Japanese industrialist Kojiro Matsukata (1865–1950), whose French paintings formed the basis of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986


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