This pencil portrait of Joseph Altounian is one of six drawings by Amedeo Modigliani included in the Artcurial sale. It has a signed inscription from Max Jacob certifying that it is the portrait of Altounian done by Modigliani in 1917. The estimate is €50,000-70,000. (Image: Artcurial.)

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The auction house is selling works assembled by the highly regarded antiques dealer and collector Joseph Altounian (1890-1954) and his family.

Born in Armenia, Altounian left Smyrna at the beginning of the 20th century and set up in Paris in Montmartre where he became acquainted with many of the artists and residents of the time. He counted among his friends and acquaintances Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Amedeo Modigliani and Kees Van Dongen with whom he travelled to Egypt.

After his marriage to Henriette Lorbet, who was descended from a family of Burgundian antique dealers and collectors, Altounian set up in Mâcon where they had a townhouse. The tradition was carried on by their son-in-law Bernard Bousset.

Altounian supplied objects to some of the world’s major museums and collectors. His original passion was for Egyptian antiquities (on Clemenceau’s recommendation Auguste Rodin chose him to supply his collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts that are now in the Rodin Museum) but he also became interested in works from the medieval and haute epoque periods.

Paris auction


This Burgundian limestone head of a bearded man or prophet c.1115-30 probably comes from the famous abbey at Cluny. It is estimated at €60,000-80,000 at Artcurial. (Image: Artcurial.)

The Artcurial auction offers more than 400 works ranging from ancient Egyptian and Roman statuary and Burgundian sculpture to 15th century stained glass panels and 18th century silverware to six rare drawings by Modigliani – all of which have dedications from the artist and feature in Altounian’s inventory book from 1920.

A seven-day viewing takes place prior to the sale for which the architect firm Lecoadic Sotto has created a special display for selected works from the collection.