The Hay Wain by John Constable, 1821
Auction valuation estimate minimum $50,000,000
Car Boot £5
It shows a pleasant spot: clouds, cottage, stream, hay wagon, little dog. The cottage is now owned by the National Trust. There is a tearoom and shop with (I like to imagine) a small lightless room at the back where a some charming floppy-sleeved rural urchins are gainfully employed maintaining the world stocks of Hay Wain tea towels, jigsaws, coasters, mugs and those vinyl shoppers that ladies of a certain age are so fond of.
The first price offered for this work was 70 quid – without the frame – to Constable himself. The record price paid for a Constable to date is $22 million for The Lock, in 1990. The Hay Wain is owned by the National Gallery now, so we get to hang on to it. But the equally famous, privately owned Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows could conceivably be sold, and the online art magazine theArtWolf estimates it at $50-£75 M. Its current owner is Lord Ashton who has lent it to the National Gallery for us all to enjoy. So while he is well-off so, culturally speaking, are we.
But back at the car boot, buyer beware. The overall condition of this example is rather disappointing, it is somewhat yellowed and the surface losses across the top third are lamentable. It’s definitely over-priced at a fiver. A quid, for the frame, take it or leave it.