26 new sketches by 18th century master Thomas Gainsborough have been
Drawings by artist Thomas Gainsborough have been newly discovered at Windsor Castle. The 26 black-and-white chalk sketches include depictions of country landscapes, animals, and trees, as well as a preparatory study for Gainsborough’s 1748 Cornard Wood, which currently hangs in the National Gallery.
The drawings were found in a leather-bound album of drawings misattributed to Sir Edwin Landseer. In 1874 the album was gifted to Queen Victoria, who was a fan of Landseer, best known as the architect of the iconic lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square. Since then, the Gainsborough treasures have been gathering dust in the Print Room of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, waiting to be discovered.
“It took years before I realized exactly what they were” said historian Lindsay Stainton, who confirmed the authorship of the sketches, speaking to BBC News.
Back in the ’90s, Stainton had recognized similarities in the drawings to the work of the celebrated 18th-century painter, but it wasn’t until she came upon a photograph of the study for Cornard Wood that she realized these sketches were not just Gainsborough-esque, but the real thing.
Thomas Gainsborough, Cornard Wood, near Sudbury, Suffolk (1748). Courtesy National Gallery.
Stainton was able to make the decisive connection to Gainsborough from the presence of the artist’s signature composition-preparation method. Gainsborough covered his sketches with a grid and lines to facilitate their transfer from small scale to the full drawing, and the study for the painting later to become known as Cornard Wood overlays the finished work almost exactly.
In response to inquiries about the monetary value of the sketches, the Royal Collection declined to comment but according to the artnet Price Database, similar sketches by the artist have previously fetched seven-figure sums, with the current record set at $2.67 million for a black-chalk study sold at Sotheby’s London in 2013.