July 8, 2022

In the World of Beauty and Without Borders The collection of works of art by Antoni and Felicja Uniechowski

Stanisław Ledóchowski


The event we participate in suggests that almost none of the collections existing after World War II survived after the death of their creator. The exceptions are those collections whose holders themselves made sure that they were sent to museums or libraries. An example can be the collection of Far East art by Tadeusz Wierzejski, placed by him in the historic "Kamienica pod Gwiazdą" in Toruń, and above all, the foundations of Karolina Lanckorońska, Andrzej Ciechanowiecki and Tomasz Niewodniczański for Wawel and the Royal Castle in Warsaw, written in gold letters. Therefore, the important role of individual collecting will remain irreplaceable.

Therefore, it seems urgent to establish the Collecting Museum, showing the history of this phenomenon from the 16th century. So far, this role has been played, albeit to a limited extent, by the Wawel Art Collection, the Jagiellonian University Museum, the Czartoryski Museum and the castle museums in Gołuchów, Kórnik and Dzików.

The subject of the current auction at the DESA Unicum Auction House are works of art and historic items collected by Antoni Uniechowski (1903–1976) and his wife Felicja Uniechowska (1925–2019) in their apartment at Wąski Danube. Those who have been there may consider themselves the chosen ones, because the past appeared to them in two ways: in the form of works of art and the host's incomparable stories.


Actually, I could put my pen down now, because it was all recorded in her books by her daughter from the first marriage, Krystyna Uniechowska-Dembińska (1929–2011), which I reach out for: "Antoni Uniechowski about himself and others" (1961), , or secrets of the antiquarian mafia "(1975)," Antoni Uniechowski, or the magical vision of the world "(1993). So a trilogy with its beginning and end filled with the admiration and adoration of the father

The fate so happened that I was there too, listening to the voice of the red lacquer floor clock, staring at the Dutch landscapes, fascinated by the two-meter horn of the ocean fish, which Toni associated with his beloved mythical unicorn. All this has passed, although the poem of Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński's companion from Krakow's times, from "Przekrój", has remained:

What a delight it is to wander through the rooms

with Mrs. Music for two!

Red candles in candlesticks like an autumn forest.

This was also the case on Narrow Danube, it is the case wherever the past wanders through the rooms.


The apartment of Tony and Felicja and their daughter Konstancja was a world of its own, created both by their personality and interests, as well as the atmosphere of the collected items. Antoni Uniechowski, an outstanding cartoonist, illustrator of countless books, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw from its heroic times, and Felicja, an art historian, educated at the University of Warsaw, complemented each other in an almost perfect way. Tony collected mysterious objects that inspired his insatiable imagination, Felicia was interested in interior decoration, finding a suitable place for each item depending on its surroundings. A space with perfect balance and harmony was created, each element of which was justified and thought out. She also wrote articles about interiors that deserve commemoration, although the most satisfying thing was designing decorations for feature films, often with her own exhibits.

Alongside their common interests, there were even more personal topics. Felicja collected Polish faience, especially Stary Pruszków, which was gathered by a fundamental team, Tony was fond of the 18th-century exquisite snuffboxes that later appeared with his heroes at the court of King Staś. Thus, he combined the knowledge of manners with the knowledge and experience of a born collector.


An important element of the interior was the seventeenth and eighteenth-century furniture and fabrics, especially the seventeenth-century tapestry, now at Wawel. A respected ceremony was winding the clocks, among them the floor-standing longcase that reached up to the ceiling, accompanied by a pair of red stools. A rarity was an English folding armchair from the 18th century and a table from the same time period with a table top made of one (!) Sufficiently wide plank, with drawings full of secret references. The piece of furniture that attracted the most attention, however, was a Dutch cupboard from the end of the 17th century, containing old silver and glass, distinguished by its beauty, and various cimelia typical of every craft. The lower drawer was filled with snuffboxes.

With the increasing awareness of the passing time, some of the items completed the seat of King Jan III and Queen Marysieńka in Wilanów, the favorite characters of Antoni Uniechowski, to whom he devoted many of his drawings.

Antoni Uniechowski and Felicja, passionate about old art, did not favor one era. They considered such interiors to be unnatural and inconsistent with the tradition of Polish houses. Therefore, apart from Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist works, there were also Empire and Biedermeier items, including a bed on swan legs called "Prince Józef's bed".


Despite this stylish diversity, we can try to point out the dominant aesthetics, which was the love of balance and harmony, a kind of dignity, and thus a sense of beauty coming from Hellas and Roma. This is probably why they avoided Rococo, a stylization as restless and capricious as it is not very predictable. They were in agreement with this.

Felicja and Tony's apartment was a meeting place for a group of interesting people: historians and art connoisseurs, among whom Franciszek Starowieyski, my friend from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, stood out. The popular "Taurus" was an unusual figure, as eccentric as Tonio, so they understood each other perfectly. No wonder then that he was the author of the introduction to the book "Antoni Uniechowski, or the magical perception of the world" and that he and Krystyna wrote "Opowieści o Koniec świata" (1994). In the above-mentioned Introduction, an important sentence was made: "When matter ceases to offer any resistance, great art appears". Here and now, always.

For unknown reasons, Antoni Uniechowski and Felicja avoided antiquities of weapons, perhaps because Tony's father, Janusz Uniechowski (1876–1924) had a wonderful collection of them, which no longer exists.

And so we got to the Uniechowski estates of the Ostoja coat of arms in Polesie. They were Dudzicze and Rusinowicze, representing two complementary faces of the landed man's seat. Dudzicze is a one-story, wooden manor house with two twin outbuildings, covered with a high roof, a monument of old Polish architecture from the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries; Rusinowicze - a neoclassical brick manor from the end of the 18th century with a lofty four-column portico. Both houses survived until 1917, wiped off the face of the earth by storms from the east. (Roman Aftanazy, Volume I).

In Rusinowicze, Janusz Uniechowski created an impressive armory, decorated with the 16th-century Maximillian armor with a saddle, obtained by exchange for a Stradivarius violin (lost), and a complete Hussar half-armor with a pair of wings, now in Wawel. Janusz Uniechowski was also a true archaeologist, the owner of a wealthy Archaeological Cabinet.

From this perspective, the collections of Antoni and Felicja Uniechowski were a continuation of a distant tradition that transformed landowners' seats not only into sanctuaries of family and national souvenirs, but also into places of world art.

In our house, there are several items from Narrow Danube, bringing back the moments and images associated with it, making the past become present. Those who do not see the bottom line, a clear message, are wrong.