The nephew of the last King of Poland, who went into affluent exile in Italy in 1791, he was a passionate collector of antiquities but also the commissioner of an extraordinary series of around 2500 intaglios.
He encouraged the belief that these were ancient gems, publishing a series of catalogues complete with elaborate descriptions in 1833.
When Poniatowski's collection was offered for sale by Christie’s in London after his death in 1839, connoisseurs and potential buyers were outraged to discover that the gems were ‘modern’.
Today, they are appreciated in their own right as fine examples of Italian neoclassical gem-engraving.
This group of 10, offered for sale at Bonhams (27.5/25% buyer’s premium) back on February 5, took £15,500 (estimate £6000-8000).