1650s drawing sells for $514,000 at Marion art auction

Oct 16, 2020

MARION — Lot 389 at Marion Antique Auction’s Oct. 10 auction was a 1652 hand drawing of Dutch Army General and Navy Admiral Maarten Tromp by Dutch painter Jan Lievens. 

Frank McNamee, co-owner of Marion Antique Shop, figured it would sell for $80,000. Well he was off...by $434,000. 

“I knew it was going to fly, but I didn’t think it was going to go for that much,” he said.

For the Lievens piece, McNamee said there were eight phone lines going: one from London, from New York, from France, two from Amsterdam and one local art dealer. 

The auction itself drew in 5,000 viewers online across three websites and 2,000 participants from over 5 countries.

After a slow move to the final bidding price of $514,000, the piece was sold to an art dealer from the Connecticut/New York area. 

The drawing was a late addition to the sale that came from an Southeastern Massachusetts estate which gave over 100 other items. 

Lievens was a well-known painter and printmaker in the 1600s from the Netherlands. He was famous for his portraits and was a contemporary of Dutch painter Rembrandt, with whom he shared a studio in Amsterdam.

The drawing of the prominent general was only signed with a feint “IL.” McNamee thought it looked like a Rembrandt piece, but couldn’t figure it out.

When he saw the signature, McNamee had the sense “it was more significant.”

So he made the push to highlight it in international ads for the auction. Once collectors and dealers started picking up on it, “the phone started ringing and I knew.” 

Covid regulations only allowed 25 people in the Marion Music Hall. Eight were bidders, and the other 17 were workers who helped bring in and out the 500 pieces that were sold in the auction. The cancellation of a June auction led Marion Antiques to sell many more pieces than they normally would.

In the nine years that Marion Antiques has been running auctions, McNamee said it’s the high individual item sold. 

Prior to the Lievens drawing, the title belonged to a $300,000 original manuscript for Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm,” the last poem Poe wrote before his death. 

Other notable sales from the auction included an early 19th century inlaid ebony and whalebone for $10,000, an early 20th century hammered silver and enamel box for $8,000 and an assortment of John F. Kennedy memorabilia for $950.

“It was a good result even without the major piece,” McNamee said.