John Constable sketch, circa 1808

This modest sketch by John Constable was included in an album of works by other English artists. Its prudish Victorian owner covered the drawing with a dinner invitation so as not to offend viewers. The album was recently purchased and the new owner gingerly removed the invitation, uncovering this small gem by an artist mainly known for his landscapes. Found in almost pristine condition, the sketch was modestly estimated to be worth between £4,000 to £6,000. It sold around four times the estimate to a private collector.

Charlie O’Brien, head of 19th century paintings at Bonhams, said: “It is a beautiful drawing and although it was drawn in the early 1800s it was remarkably modern for its time.

“It has a wonderful sense of movement, with the way the woman turns her head over her shoulder. It does have great resonance with collectors today.

“The Victorians’ attitude to nude art was more puritan than today and the owner of this album wouldn’t have been the first to cover up such work, although a more innocent drawing is hard to imagine. – Naked Sketch by John Constable Comes to Light After 145 Years