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John Constable

1776 – 1837

Hadleigh Castle – Large Plate by John Constable

Hadleigh Castle – Large Plate   1830/49

  Mezzotint by David Lucas, as directed by John Constable.
Ref: Shirley 11 i or ii/iii
S 506 x 630 mm; P (image) 278 x 376 mm; P (title) 44 x 374 mm; I 270 x 365 mm
Proof before all letters, printed from two plates. Only 25 proofs of this sort were printed and these are now very rare indeed.

Very good impression in this unusual state of the engraving. Although begun by David Lucas with John Constable’s close collaboration in about 1830, this large plate of Hadleigh Castle was never published during John Constable’s lifetime. It is the most scarce of all of the large engravings to be produced from the combined talent of John Constable, the painter, and David Lucas his brilliant mezzotint engraver. Impressions were only ever issued in a very small edition in 1849, some twelve years after John Constable’s death.

This splendid example of the large plate of Hadleigh Castle is printed on fine applied China paper which has greatly enhanced the impression quality over those on normal wove paper. Beneath the image plate, a separate plate has been used to print the blank title and dedication area, which has not yet been engraved with any lettering in this early proof impression. The Printsellers’ Association blindstamp is impressed at the left of the blank title area.

It is likely that this impression, taken from two plates, represents what was categorised by the Printsellers’ Association as a proof “before letters”. The large plate of Hadleigh Castle was the first plate to be declared by the Printsellers’ Association, who announced an edition of only 25 artist’s proofs at £1 11s. 6d., a further 25 proofs “before letters” at 1 guinea, and an unknown number of lettered impressions at 10s. 6d.. All of these are now rare and impressions printed from two plates appear to be particularly scarce.

Hadleigh Castle is situated near Southend, high on a commanding viewpoint overlooking the Kent hills and the Nore at the mouth of the Thames. John Constable’s only recorded visit to the castle was in June 1814 when he recorded his impressions of the scene in a slight pencil sketch. This was to become the basis of his large exhibited oil painting of the subject (Royal Academy 1829), and of this mezzotint. Hadleigh Castle was one of John Constable’s favourite subjects and the production of this plate took the artist and his engraver two years of work together to perfect. It is perhaps the finest engraved rendition of all of John Constable’s work and is undoubtedly one of the most scarce.

On fine applied China paper laid on original warm white wove backing sheet with full margins, as issued. Laid on linen (the only other impression of this state which we have seen was similarly prepared on a fine linen backing). Mild uniform time tone to sheet, otherwise generally very good original condition. A superb example of this early and unusual state of the engraving.