Barbara Piasecka Johnson

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Barbara Piasecka Johnson
Barbara Piasecka

February 25, 1937
Staniewicze, Poland (now Belarus)
DiedApril 1, 2013 (2013-05) (aged 76)
OccupationPhilanthropist, art collector
Spouse(s)John Seward Johnson I

Barbara "Basia" Piasecka Johnson (born Barbara Piasecka; February 25, 1937 – April 1, 2013) was a Polish humanitarian, philanthropist, art connoisseur and collector.

Early life[edit]

Piasecka Johnson was born in Staniewicze near Grodno, Poland (now in Belarus). Her father was a farmer.[1][2] She graduated from Wroclaw University with a M.A. in Art History. She left Poland in 1968, with $100 in her possession.[3]


Piasecka was hired as a cook by Esther Underwood Johnson, then wife of John Seward Johnson I. She then worked as the Johnsons' chambermaid.[3][4]

One time seeing his admiration for one of the paintings he had bought, she said casually that he overpaid for it because it is not a picture of a master, but his disciple and by using the dates proved it. Johnson was shocked about her knowledge and expertise, and appointed her as consultant to his purchases of works of art. A year after she became Johnson's chambermaid, she became his curator for the Seward Johnson's art collection.[4]

Personal life[edit]

During this time J. Seward Johnson' engaged in extramarital affairs with Piasecka Johnson. In 1971, they married with none of Johnson's children in attendance. According to trial witnesses brought to court by J. S. Johnson's children during the proceedings concerning his will, Piasecka Johnson "often physically and emotionally abused her husband".[3][5][6] Piasecka Johnson said she was a devoted wife for 12 years of marriage.

She was the primary beneficiary of his will and received the bulk of her husband's fortune of $400 million after he died in 1983 ($1.01 billion as of 2018).[7][8] Excluded from their father's will, Seward Johnson's six children sued on grounds that their father wasn't mentally competent at the time he signed the will. The case went to trial but was settled prior to return of a verdict, and the children were granted about 12% of the fortune,[9] leaving Piasecka Johnson in control of the majority of the estate.

In 2007, Johnson was listed on the Forbes 400 World's Richest People list with an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion, making her the 149th richest person.[10] She converted the family estate in Princeton, New Jersey, named Jasna Polana, into a country club.

Johnson was involved in a number of charitable projects, especially in Poland, through the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation which she established in 1974.[8] Johnson founded a school in Gdańsk for autistic children, and donated to the church in Poland, and welfare centres.[8]

Johnson had homes in Italy and Poland, and lived the last years of her life in Monaco.[8] Johnson died in her native Poland in Sobótka, and was buried in Wrocław.[11]

Paintings from Piasecka Johnson's art collection were displayed in Monaco's Museum of the Chapel of Visitation from 1995 to 2014.[12] Her collection was removed from the chapel in May 2014 in preparation for its eventual sale at Christie's auction house in July 2014.[12]

See also[edit]

  • Johnson v. Johnson (1988, ISBN 0-440-20041-5)
  • Undue Influence: The Epic Battle for the Johnson & Johnson Fortune (1993, ISBN 0-688-06425-6)


  1. ^ Warner, Susan (2005-04-10). "The Family Behind the Company". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  2. ^ Ellwood, Mark (14 January 2010). "Casey Johnson - death of a gossip girl". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b c McMurran, Kristin (26 May 1986). "The Band-Aid Heir Left All He Owned to His Widow, but His Children Claim It Was Just Seward's Folly". People. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  4. ^ a b Zelizer, Viviana A. (2009). The Purchase of Intimacy. Princeton University Press. pp. 158–160. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  5. ^ "Jury gets two views of widow". Boca Raton News. 28 February 1986. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  6. ^ Maull, Samuel (28 February 1986). "Lawyers' speeches portray Johnson widow as shrew". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  7. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Barbara Piasecka Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. 5 April 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Mary Lea Johnson Richards, 63, Founder of Production Company". New York Times. 1990-05-04. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  10. ^ "The 400 Richest Americans". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  11. ^ "Przyjaciele pożegnali Barbarę Piasecką-Johnson we Wrocławiu" (in Polish). Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  12. ^ a b "The Museum of the Visitation Chapel Removal of the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection". Government of Monaco press releases. Government of Monaco. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.

External links[edit]