Andrzej Ciechanowiecki

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Andrzej Ciechanowiecki
Portrait of Andrzej Ciechanowiecki.jpg
Portrait by Andrzej Okinczyc, 2009
Born 28 September 1924 Edit this on Wikidata (age 92)
Warsaw Edit this on Wikidata
Alma mater Jagiellonian University, University of Tübingen Edit this on Wikidata
Occupation Art dealer Edit this on Wikidata

Andrew Stanislaus (Andrzej Stanisław) Ciechanowiecki (28 September 1924 – 2 November 2015) was a Polish-British art historian, philanthropist, art collector, antique dealer, and antiquarian. He was also founder of the Ciechanowiecki Foundation at the Royal Castle in Warsaw (1986), Honorary Professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Honorary Member or Life Member of many learned societies both foreign and Polish, FSA, member of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, and member of the Board of the Lanckoroński Foundation. He was also a Council Member of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation from its establishment until July 2011, the Raczyński Foundation, and the Polish Historical & Literary Society in Paris (SHLP), chairman of the Polish-Belarusian Bilateral Commission for the Conservation of the National Patrimony, as well as a prominent member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. He was also decorated with the Order of the White Eagle (1998), Grand Cross of Polonia Restituta, war medals, Gloria Artis Gold Medal and other awards.


Early life to 1945[edit]

Andrew Ciechanowiecki was born in Warsaw in 1924, the descendant of a well-connected Polish noble and senatorial family established in Belarus. The family lost its estates as a result of the Treaty of Riga, when they fell on the Soviet side of the border. His father, George Stanislaus (1893–1930), was a Polish diplomat, and his mother (married in 1923), Matilda, née Countess Osiecimska-Hutten Czapska (1900–1991), was a prominent figure in the social life of pre-war Warsaw. He spent his childhood in Budapest and then attended the Nicholas Rey Primary School, and later the Stefan Batory Gimnazjum & Liceum in Warsaw. In 1939, he fled to the East with his family, participating as a volunteer in the September Campaign. Narrowly escaping deportation to Siberia, he returned to Warsaw with his family in the spring of 1940, obtaining his baccalauréat through clandestine schooling (being taught together with such luminaries of Polish science as Professor J Kroh, JA Miłobędzki, J Pelc & K Szaniawski) in 1942. At the same time, he was involved in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) and also in underground charitable work. He began studies in Economics at the school of Professor E. Lipiński and simultaneously undertook clandestine ones in Art History at the Western University (Uniwersytet Zachodni). He took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 as a cadet, and, after its failure, worked in the organisation, "Freedom and Independence" (Wolność i Niezawisłość), until the spring of 1945.[1]

In the Polish People’s Republic[edit]

Having decided not to escape to the West, in June 1945 he was invited to join the Polish Foreign Office (because of his knowledge of several languages), with the rank of Counsellor. He was assigned as Chief of Protocol to the Ministry of Shipping & Foreign Trade. In that capacity he participated in numerous negotiations with foreign delegations in Warsaw and in August 1945 was a member of the Polish Delegation (and its interpreter) in the UNRRA Conference held in London. In the autumn of that year he was appointed Counsellor to the Embassy in the Hague, but that appointment was cancelled for political reasons (his origins and his Home Army past). He returned to Cracow to complete his studies – firstly at the Academy of Economics (Diploma obtained 1947) and then at the Faculty of History of Art at the Jagiellonian University, gaining his Master of Arts degree in March 1950. At the same time, he was involved in student activities and was the founder of Klub Logofagów (Club of the Logophagoi), a debating society which numbered some of the most prominent students and young scholars - many eminent politicians and scholars were to emerge from its ranks. (The Club was also the prototype for later clubs of the Catholic intelligentsia, which prepared the fall of Communism.)

Having completed his studies, he was almost immediately appointed Assistant at the Institute of History of Art. Work on his doctoral thesis was interrupted by his arrest on 22 October 1950. Transported immediately to Warsaw in connection with the planned "British Embassy Trial" and after lengthy and stressful interrogations, he was sentenced to ten years in prison in February 1952 for allegedly helping Anglo-Saxon and Vatican spies, as well as for extending his underground activities beyond the official date for disclosure (which, in any case, would probably have led to earlier arrest). He spent almost six years in prison in very difficult conditions – firstly in the cellars of the Ministry of Public Security in Koszykowa Street, later in the infamous Mokotów Prison (both in Warsaw), and finally – after sentencing – in the prisons of Rawicz and Wronki. In the latter two he actively organised spiritual help for his fellow prisoners. Having got himself work in the prison hospital he was instrumental in faking documents enabling the early release of a very large number of political prisoners. He himself was released on 6 March 1956 and later cleared of all charges.

Returning to Cracow he took up his doctoral thesis and also worked on other research projects. He was a Consultant at the Wawel Castle Museum and also a Curator at the Castle Museum in Łańcut. His academic interests concentrated on the history of furniture and later on Cracow Baroque silver, as well as on the culture of the former Commonwealth of Poland. In 1958 he was chosen for a scholarship by the Ford Foundation and the British Council, leaving the country on 22 July of that year, never thinking that it would be a final break with his homeland for 19 years.

Activities in the West[edit]

After a 3-month stay in Great Britain, he spent another six months in the United States, visiting museums and lecturing on Polish culture. He had offers of work and further scholarships, but he decided to return to Europe, where in the autumn of 1959 he enrolled at the University of Tübingen to prepare another doctoral thesis (different from the one in Poland) and for which he had fortunately taken most of the materials with him from Cracow. At the same time, he taught Polish Culture for two semesters and was a Lecturer in Polish Language. A Doctorate in Philosophy (magna cum laude) was conferred on him at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen in July 1960. His dissertation Michał Kazimierz Ogiński und sein Musenhof zu Słonim was published in German in 1961. As a recognised work of reference, it was also translated into Belarusian in two editions (1993 and 2006). He later spent a few months in Portugal on a Gulbenkian Foundation scholarship (the results of which were articles on Portuguese furniture).

In 1961, after much soul-searching, he decided to settle permanently in London, where he had been offered a directorship in the newly founded firm Mallett at Bourdon House (a subsidiary of Mallett & Son) in Bond Street. He became a British subject in 1967. During his time at Mallett at Bourdon House he organised four innovative exhibitions on sculpture, mainly of the forgotten French 19th century, which were received with much critical acclaim. In 1965 he was invited to be co-organiser and co-owner of the newly founded Heim Gallery in Jermyn Street. Slowly he bought out his partners and finally became the gallery’s sole owner. In 1986 he sold the Heim Gallery and moved to a smaller one, founded by himself and named The Old Masters Gallery, located opposite his previous gallery in Jermyn Street. He dealt from there until 1995, when as a result of a serious stroke he had to close the gallery and retire from business.

The innovative catalogues of the Heim Gallery became well known throughout the world and are to this day considered source material. They were copied by the main London auction houses and later by private galleries. He was also the first dealer in London for decades to present paintings (mainly Italian and French) from the 16th to the 19th centuries, together with sculpture which had been neglected for a long time. Sculpture became his main interest and the main element of the Heim Gallery’s activities. The gallery specialised in Baroque and Neoclassical, as well as 19th-century art. The openings of exhibitions at the Heim Gallery were also innovative and became social and academic events in London. They were often opened in the presence of senior members of the Royal Family (twice by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), members of the Government, Ambassadors, and attended by the elite of scholars, society and museum directors.

Finally having a good income, he began collecting works of Polish art and art connected with Poland, in the hope that they would ultimately reach his homeland. He was also the co-organiser of three major exhibitions: Treasures of a Polish King at the Dulwich Gallery in London, Polish Expressionism and The Land of the Winged Horsemen in museums in the USA. Travelling to the United States several times a year, he lectured extensively on the history of Polish Culture, particularly in Detroit, where he contributed to the creation of a Polish Section at the local Art Institute. He also lectured in Britain and had articles published in various scholarly magazines.[2] In 1986, when his collections had grown considerably in quantity (and from which he had already donated a number of items to Polish museums), he set up the Ciechanowiecki Foundation at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The Foundation distributes its holdings to other Polish museums on long-term loan, but is predominantly furnishing the rebuilt Royal Castle. He also gave the Foundation a large library, his archives and a not inconsiderable sum for the upkeep of the collections. Since 1986 he has been enriching the Foundation with numerous gifts of significant importance, as well as books and archive material.

In his commercial activities, Ciechanowiecki always favoured British museums, giving them preference in their choice of works of art and always better prices. In this way he wanted to pay his debt to "the country of his happy adoption" (his words).

Ciechanowiecki had petitioned from Poland (as the first Pole from behind the Iron Curtain and probably also the first of any future members of the Order from Eastern Europe) to join the Sovereign & Military Order of Malta in 1957. He was accepted into its ranks a year later in the Polish Association of the Order (then in exile). He later became its Chancellor (for 10 years) and Vice-President (until 1997). He initiated the creation of a small hostel for the aged in London, which was later transferred to Warsaw, where it became far more significant and important. He rose through the ranks of the Order, finally becoming Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour & Devotion.

He was also very active in various Dynastic Orders, especially those of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies dynasty, creating Delegations in Poland, Great Britain and Ireland of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, serving under Grand Master HRH The Duke of Castro on the Order’s Council in Rome. He rose through the ranks and held uniquely the honours of Knight of the Order of St Januarius , Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George with Collar and Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I.

He later formed the Delegation of the Order of St Maurice & St Lazarus of the Royal House of Savoy in the UK and in recent years helped to establish the Tuscan Dynastic Orders of St Stephen and that of St Joseph in Britain. He is also very close to the former Russian Imperial House and is decorated with the highest Orders of Imperial Russia.

His position in the Order of Malta and his personal relationships with the Heads of former ruling Houses as well as his paradiplomatic activities in the fields of culture and ecclesiastical affairs were the grounds on which the last King of Italy, Umberto II (who, although in exile, kept all his royal prerogatives in the field of heraldry) confirmed Ciechanowiecki’s hereditary rights to the use of a comital title in 1975 (the title had been used by his family for more than 200 years). Two years later the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta confirmed this usage in all acts of the Order internationally, as it maintains diplomatic relations with more than 100 sovereign states.

In the professional field, Ciechanowiecki achieved major successes, being the owner of one of the most important galleries in London, the organiser of over 40 significant exhibitions, which are still relevant today, and as the initiator of interest in Baroque and Neoclassical art, as well as French Academic, especially in the sculpture of these periods. He exported his enthusiasm in these fields to major American and Continental museum. He was also initiator and co-organiser of many important international exhibitions, including Giovanni Bologna (Edinburgh, London and Vienna), The Twilight of the Medici (Detroit, Florence), or The Golden Age of Naples (Naples and Detroit). He also served on the Committees of other international exhibitions, which was unusual for a dealer in those days.

On behalf of the Polish Association of SMOM, he did much to support Polish charities during the state of siege (1991/2), funded many scholarships and also in the name of the Polish Association contributed to 85% of the costs of the construction of the Church under the Invocation of the Virgin Mary and St Maximilian Kolbe in the industrial suburb of Mistrzejowice on the outskirts of Cracow. It was the second church to be built in a planned godless Communist city. Its interior is unique as its entire décor is purely sculptural. He worked closely with Prof Gustaw Zemła (a noted Polish sculptor) financing this homogeneous and most impressive interior, which has entered the canon of Polish post-war sculpture.

As co-founder of the Page of History Foundation (Fundacja Karta z Dziejów), which commemorates the centuries of Jewish participation in the culture and life of Poland, he contributed financially and as its artistic advisor to the erection of the monument "The Ten Commandments" in Łódź and the statue of "David the Psalmist" in Zamość (both the work of Gustaw Zemła). Other works, sponsored by the Foundation, are in the pipeline. He has also deposited works of art from his own collections to adorn several Polish Embassies.

Ciechanowiecki began to travel to Poland again in 1977 (19 years after his intended nine-month departure for scholarships). He had remained in close touch with his professors and colleagues and was particularly involved – even from London – in the rebuilding of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The Foundation he created in 1986, now consisting of some 3000 items including paintings, drawings, furniture, silverware, textiles, miniatures, medals and jewels, is probably the greatest gift that the Royal Castle in Warsaw has ever received. The Foundation does not aim to have a building or rooms named after itself. It distributes works of art to other museums in Poland, depending on the needs of those institutions, but with priority given to the Royal Castle in Warsaw, which he has helped considerably in furnishing and decorating. The Foundation has also financed various important publications, including the magisterial work on the history of Polish residences in the Eastern Marches, by Roman Aftanazy (1st edition 1986, 2nd edition 1993) as well as several others.

Activities in Eastern Europe[edit]

Andrew Ciechanowiecki, ever aware of the country of activity of his Polish ancestors – namely Belarus, was involved with the Belarusian émigré community in London and their cultural establishment. He also met scholars coming to London from Belarus, corresponded with them, and in 1987 was invited by its government to visit Belarus. As it was the autumn of that year, the visit was postponed and he finally visited the country in 1988. The visit was officially defined "in the footsteps of the family": landing in St Petersburg, travelling to Minsk, via the family’s former properties near Vitsebsk and Polatsk, to Mstsislau and Mahiliou, then back to Minsk and finally departure from Moscow – altogether over two weeks. It was during the short-lived period of political relaxation. Many interesting contacts were made and many further numerous trips to Belarus ensued, in collaboration with the appropriate Polish authorities as well as British ones. This all led to Ciechanowiecki’s involvement in the preservation and conservation of historical monuments in Belarus, primarily the princely Radzivil residence in Niasvizh and its Collegiate Church.[3]

Further to the decision of both Governments, Ciechanowiecki was appointed Chairman of the Polish-Belarusian Bilateral Commission for the Conservation of the National Patrimony in 1993 and he continues as Honorary Chairman of this body, even lately chairing meetings on several occasions. He was elected Honorary Chairman of the Belarusian Nobility Association, (which he founded), as well as Honorary Member of the International Association of Belarusian Studies, which he had also founded and chaired some of their meetings in Niasvizh, Minsk, Warsaw and Venice.

He was also appointed an Honorary Member of the Institute of History of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, and finally received an Honorary Doctorate from the Belarusian State University in Minsk. He is quite active in Belarusian-British relations, being inter alia Vice-President of the Anglo-Belarusian Society in London. He has also made some significant gifts to Belarusian museums and, above all, donated some reliquaries of Belarusian Catholic saints to churches in Belarus, as well as acting as a contact between the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

In 1995 Ciechanowiecki suffered a severe stroke, which deprived him of the use of his legs. However, he remained intellectually very active in the field of his many interests. Above all, he continued with his numerous duties to Poland, where he still travelled several times a year to attend academic meetings, including those of his own Foundation, as well as to deal with the publication of various books, and also to pursue his paradiplomatic and parapolitical activities. He died in London on 2 November 2015.[4]




Dynastic orders[edit]

Honorary Doctorates[edit]

Also other awards and "Festschrifts", both Polish and foreign. Honorary citizenship of Ciechanowiec (Poland) and Zaslawye (Belarus).


  1. ^ Dumin. Stanisław, Rachuba. Andrzej, Sikorska-Kulesza. Jolanta, Ciechanowieccy herbu Dąbrowa, Warsaw 1997, p.155-159.
  2. ^ A.Ciechanowiecki/B.O. Jeżewski, Polonika na Wyspach Brytyjskich, Londyn 1965.
  3. ^ A.Ciechanowiecki, Nieśwież – międzynarodowy ośrodek kultury na Białorusi od XVI do XX wieku, Warszawa 1996.
  4. ^ "Patron of the arts and WWII resistance veteran Ciechanowiecki dies". Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy. 
  5. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 372. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 

Sources and external links[edit]

  • Heim Gallery and Old Masters Gallery, 1965–1994, records
  • Communiqué on the granting of the Order of the White Eagle
  • Debrett's People of Today
  • Zamoyski, Adam The Apollo Portrait : Andrew Ciechanowiecki, in Apollo, July 1987.
  • Knox, Tim Art in Trust for Poland, in Apollo, June 2005.
  • Demoriane, H. Vous aussi, devenez collectionneurs de bronzes, in Connaissance des Arts, Paris 1965.
  • Coignard, Jérôme, Esquisses d’une vie : vente de la collection d’esquisses peintes françaises du XVIIe au XIXe siècle d’André Ciechanowiecki, Drouot-Richelieu, Paris, le 28 Juin 2002, in Connaissance des Arts, Paris, June 2002.
Ciechanowiecki, A. S., Speeches given on the occasion of the conferral of honorary membership of the Association of Art Historians, Honorary Citizenship of the City of Ciechanowiec, Honorary Doctorate from University of Warsaw, and Honorary Membership of the Polish Heraldic Society, Warsaw 1992. (in Polish)
Doktor Andrzej Ciechanowiecki. Doktor Honoris Causa Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Cracow 2009.
Piwocka M., Andrzej Ciechanowiecki i dziedzictwo Słonimia, „Studia Waweliana”, Vol XIV, 2009, p.265-272 (PL ISSN 1230-3275).