At auction with an estimate of $ 200, it turns out that a basic design worth 1 million.

An auction that went up for auction in October 2020 with the ridiculous estimate of $ 200 has been recognized as a fundamental part of the Dutch 17th century that was thought to have been lost: bought from a New York grocery store, it will be put up for sale at TEFAF. The price? 1.35 million euros.

It went up for auction in October 2020 with a ridiculous estimate: between $ 200 and $ 300. And with attribution to an unknown artist, despite the fact that the sheet was initialed (“IL”) and dated 1652. It turned out that it was instead a basic drawing of Jan Lievens (Leiden, 1607 – Amsterdam, 1674), depicting the Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (1597 – 1653), who died in battle during the Anglo-Dutch War in 1653. The drawing turned out to be the basis for several engravings depicting Trump, as well as two paintings, one of which is kept in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Luckily for the auction house, the little one Marion Antique Auctions based in the city of Marion, Massachusetts, the experts immediately understood the quality of the sheet around which one fight rather contested, which closed with a bid of $ 440,000.

The New York merchant bought the work Christopher Bishopwhich now brings the design to TEFAF from Maastricht, one of the most important antique art fairs in the world, where it will be for sale at a price of 1.35 million euros. It’s the same bishop who told New York Times how it went: While, as usual, searching through the catalogs of online auctions in search of interesting works, he focused on the image of the drawing for sale by Marion Antique. The monogram “IL” catches his attention. “Why could it not have been Jan Lievens?”: That was the question the bishop asked. With some research on the web, he found the print and immediately thought that the work for sale in Massachusetts could be the sheet from which the engraving was derived: he thus went to Marion, where he was able to appreciate the work live, and he got himself even to tell the latest story of the sheet from Frank McNamee, co-owner of the small auction house.

The drawing by Jan Lievens

The drawing was in the possession of a family who had acquired it by inheritance (some members must have bought it in Europe at an unspecified time in the 20th century) and who tried to auction off a number of hand-painted porcelain. . McNamee had therefore been to their house to evaluate the works and was also invited to see a room filled with framed prints. He was fascinated by the drawing: “I thought it was a fake Rembrandt,” he told al New York Times. As soon as it was posted online, the sheet immediately attracted attention: At least 15 potential buyers called the auction house before the sale, and eventually there were nearly twenty bidders, as many had had Bishop’s intuition. That is, everyone was convinced that the sheet could be the Lievens one thought was long lost. The battle to win the piece surprised even the auctioneer, Dave Glynn (as soon as the auction reached two hundred thousand dollars, or a thousand times the original estimate, he said: “it seems we have underestimated this!”). After the three hundred thousand dollars, there were only two candidates left, but in the end Bishop won for the sum of 440,000 dollars (514,800 including the rights).

The drawing was then taken to New York, where it was restored as storage conditions were not good. The restoration made it possible to discover watermark on paper, which made it possible to understand that the sheet came from a regular supplier of Lievens and Rembrandt, active in Amsterdam in the 1950s. The signs of the perforations were then found in the points where the design was attached to the plate from which the engraving was made, and then again folds and even ink stains. The sheet was apparently also reviewed by other experts, including Gregory Rubinstein, responsible for the drawings at Sotheby’s in London, who did not question the authenticity of the work. And who also indulged in a professional comment: although he stated that he did not blame a small auction house for not understanding the value of a work, he also said that if such a mistake had happened to him, he would have lost her job. as experts are hardly in doubt about the value of the sheet.

Fortunately for the auction house, the experts therefore noticed it before a sale at spot prices. And now Bishop’s hope is that it will be bought by some Dutch museum, as it is a very important work also for the history of the country.

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