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The Ciechanowiecki collection of French drawings for sale in Paris

They are expected to fetch over €1 million

Paris

Andrew Ciechanowiecki, the sculpture specialist and one-time dealer, influential friend and mentor of many curators, collectors and dealers and a generous benefactor to his native Poland, is to sell his collection of French 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century oil sketches in Paris next month.

The sale is being held in Paris because, according to Mr Ciechanowiecki, “It was the logical place to sell. There are no specialists of French painting in England. [The expert] Etienne Bréton is a very good specialist and he works with an excellent colleague, Gérard Auguier.” While Mr Ciechanowiecki says that France would always have been the best location, the auctioneer Eric Beaussant feels that the sale is proof of the current revival of the French art market: “Mr Ciechanowiecki could have sold anywhere in the world, and he chose Paris. The spirit of this collection corresponds to the profile of Drouot regulars. They are passionate collectors who love nosing out discoveries.”

The group of 280 works, which had been on loan to the Albuquerque Museum in New Mexico, will be sold by Maître Beaussant at Drouot on 28 June. They are expected to fetch over €1 million (£610,000; $854,000). The sum raised will go into the Ciechanowiecki Foundation, to acquire works for the Royal Castle in Warsaw, for which the foundation has already bought over 2,000 pieces.

The collection was built up in the course of Mr Ciechanowiecki’s travels between 1960 and 1980, roughly the period when he was also holding a series of authoritative sculpture exhibitions at a leading West End gallery. They were enormously influential and re-ignited interest in a field that had been in abeyance since before World War II.

“I am a passionate collector,” says Mr Ciechanowiecki, who has also collected sculpture, preparatory drawings for sculpture and medals, “and at some stage I realised that French sketches were cheap and one could get very attractive things.” Another attraction of the field was the ceaseless and fascinating hunt for the authors of the works: very few are signed and, as Mr Ciechanowiecki says, “Reattributions will go on for years.” While many of the sketches in the sale have now been identified, some 15% are still unattributed.

This is a chance for French and foreign collectors alike to acquire superb, small-scale works (in excellent condition, since they were all framed and restored while in Alburquerque), and perhaps to carry out their own research on their purchases.

Estimates have been kept very low and there are no reserves: “It didn’t make sense to keep any of the collection,” says Mr Ciechanowiecki, who will use the money to strengthen the resources of his foundation. Does he have anything in particular in mind for the Royal Castle in Warsaw? “I have seen something….but it all depends on the result of the sale,” he says.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Warsaw is worth this sacrifice'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 125 May 2002