The sale by Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza of John Constable’s painting “The Lock” in London at the beginning of July not only raised less money than had been expected (£22.4 million instead of the £25 million hoped for) but has also caused a considerable amount of criticism in Spain and abroad.
It is part of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza private collection, which is on a long-term loan to the Spanish state, in return for the maintenance and insurance of the paintings. At present these are housed next to the rest of her late husband’s collection in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which now belongs to Spain, until more permanent arrangements can be made for them.
The baroness, the fifth wife of the late Swiss industrialist Baron Von Thyssen-Bornemisza, is entitled to sell up to ten per cent of her part of the collection according to an agreement worked out with the museum’s board in February 2012. It is estimated that Constable’s “The Lock”, which her husband bought for her in 1990 for £10.8 million, amounts to about four per cent of the total value of her paintings.
The baroness decided to sell the Constable masterpiece because she says she needs the money to see her through the economic crisis. A trustee of the museum’s board, Norman Rosenthal, the former head of exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London, has resigned in protest against the sale. The only daughter of the late baron was also against the sale.
“The Lock”, painted in 1824, has been sold to a private buyer. It is one of six large-scale Constable canvases, which include the Hay Wain, and it is feared that it may now disappear from public view.