(Bloomberg News) A John Constable painting owned by the widow of the Dutch-born industrialist and Old Master collector Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza sold Tuesday at a sale in London for 22.4 million pounds ($35 million) with fees, a record for the artist at auction.
Constable's 1824 landscape "The Lock" had been consigned for sale at Christie's International by Baroness Carmen 'Tita' Thyssen-Bornemisza, a former Miss Spain, who became the baron's fifth wife in 1985.
Christie's and Sotheby's are testing the market for Old Master paintings this week with U.K. evening auctions estimated to raise as much as 129 million pounds. Pre-20th century European paintings have traditionally been the most expensive of all works of art at auction. Recently, some Old Masters have struggled to attract new buyers and have fallen in value in comparison with postwar and contemporary works.
Christie's guaranteed a minimum price for the Constable, which was estimated at 20 million pounds to 25 million pounds, based on hammer prices. It was bought by the third-party guarantor and there were no other bids.
The Constable was acquired by Baron Thyssen at Sotheby's in 1990 for 10.8 million pounds, then a record for any British painting sold at auction. It had been displayed in the museum in Madrid that houses the Baron's collection since 1992.
Norman Rosenthal, the former exhibitions director of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, resigned as a trustee of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza last week in protest at the sale of the painting, the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper said on June 30.
Baron Thyssen was the heir to a fortune built from his Austro-Hungarian family's business interests that included steel, armaments and naval construction. The Baron acquired more than 1,600 Old Master and modern paintings during his life as a collector. He died in Spain in April 2002 at the age of 81.
"The Lock," showing a figure struggling to open a canal gate, was one of six large-scale canvases of the River Stour that Constable exhibited to acclaim at the London Royal Academy between 1819 and 1825.
Earlier Tuesday, Rembrandt's "Man in a Gorget and Cap" was sold to a single bid from an Asian telephone buyer for 8.4 million pounds with fees. It had a lower estimate of 8 million pounds. The work was one of 15 Old Masters offered by the collectors Pieter and Olga Dreesmann, regular buyers at the Frieze Art Fair. The Dreesmanns are "re-focusing" their interests, according to the London-based auction house.
Visiting collectors are also being drawn to Master Drawings and Master Paintings promotions running concurrently at 40 commercial galleries through tomorrow.