A ruined cottage at Capel, Suffolk

A ruined cottage at Capel, Suffolk

Constable's inscription at the top of the drawing notes that this cottage was the subject of a local legend. A few years previously, an old woman had burned to death inside, leaving the rest of the cottage unscathed by the flames; apparently witchcraft was suspected. This drawing comes from Constable's earliest known sketchbook. In 1796, he had not yet committed himself to an artistic career and it was assumed that he would enter his father's business in Suffolk. That year he met the writer J. T. 'Antiquity' Smith, who was collecting material for a book on rural scenery, and showed him several drawings of local cottages -- perhaps including this one -- for possible inclusion. Although Smith responded positively, he ultimately did not use any of Constable's sketches in the published book.