“For Spain, the loss of The Lock is of a seriousness that is difficult to measure,” wrote Francisco Calvo Serraller, former director of the Prado Museum, in the Spanish daily El País. “Faced by this terrible loss, any art lover will feel not only terrible pain, but also a legitimate rage resulting from the shady, tricky and unexplained way this awful affair has been carried out.”
ohn Constable’s The Lock (1824), one of the English painter’s acknowledged masterpieces, depicts an idyllic and quintessentially English pastoral scene in which the sky and atmosphere are endowed with a vibrancy the Impressionists would later aspire to. In recent years the painting has hung in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, placed there on extended loan from the personal collection of the Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Not anymore. Last summer the baroness abruptly withdrew the painting from the museum to put it up for auction at Christie’s London, where in July it fetched £22.4 million ($35.2 million). The sale provoked anger in Spanish art circles, protest among museum trustees, and public squabbling among members of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family.
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