In recent art world news, on December 29, 2016, the Polish government signed an agreement with the privately owned Princes Czartoryski Foundation to purchase the Czartoryski art collection, which is recognized as one of Europe’s most significant private art collections. The family foundation has administered the collection since its inception in 1991.
The Czartoryski art collection includes 250,000 historic manuscripts and documents, some of which were previously owned by Polish kings. The treasured collection also includes 86,000 museum artifacts of which contain 593 precious artworks, most notably, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady With an Ermine” (1489-1490), Rembrandt’s “Landscape With the Good Samaritan” (1638), and sketches by Rembrandt, Auguste Renoir and Albrecht Dürer.
The purchase transaction only changes the status of the family art collection, which was set up more than 200 years ago by Princess Izabela Czartoryska. It has been reported that the artworks will remain where they are today – most are housed and displayed in the National Museum in Krakow with the exception of “Lady With an Ermine”, which is displayed at the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow.
The legal effort of Poland’s culture ministry “reflects a broader goal by the right-wing Law and Justice government, which since taking power more than a year ago has been striving to re-establish Polish heritage and history as a source of national identity and pride.” Poland’s deputy prime minister and minister of culture, Piotr Glinski, who signed the agreement, has acknowledged that the $105 million paid for the collection by the Polish government is “way below the market price,” which is widely estimated at more than $2 billion, and the transaction can be viewed more as a “donation.”
Many artworks from the family art collection were looted during the war years, including Raphael’s masterpiece “Portrait of a Young Man” (1513-1514) and were never recovered. The list of lost art work includes as many as 800 works. The recently signed agreement “not only gives Poland the rights to the current collection, but also transfers the rights to any future claims to works of art that may be retrieved.”