Prince Stanislaw Poniatowski was one of the most prominent members of the Polish court during the reign of his uncle, Stanislaw II August Poniatowski, the last King and Grand Duke of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Stanislaw August saw in his nephew a potential successor to the Polish throne, and it is highly likely that but for the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, the Prince would have been its next King. Well-educated and well-travelled, Prince Stanislaw had a strong interest in the arts and in economy, founding an art school in Warsaw and instituting land reforms on his estates. An experienced and long-serving diplomat, he was a deputy of the Sejm, Marshal of that body in 1780 and from 1776 a member of the Commission for National Education. He was highly respected by the Russian Imperial Court in Saint Petersburg, where he was awarded the Order of Saint Andrew the First-Called by Catherine the Great in 1777, and held the highest Russian court rank of Actual Privy Councillor. Despite Paul I's offer to make him Grand Prior of the Order of Malta, in 1795 the Prince sold his possessions in Poland and went abroad, first to England and then to Rome, where his villa near the Via Flaminia housed his celebrated collection of pictures and cameos, as well a large part of the papers of Stanislaw August. In Rome he rescued Cassandra Lucci, the battered wife of one of his neighbours, with whom he would have five children, despite the refusal of the Vatican to grant Cassandra an annulment of her former marriage. In 1820 they moved to the Villa Monterotondo in Tuscany, where, in 1830, after the death of Cassandra's husband, the two were finally married.
Portraits of Prince Stanislaw were also painted by Angelica Kauffman (circa 1786, untraced, formerly Florence, known from a preperatory drawing in Bergenz, Vorarlberger Landesmuseum, and a copy in Poznan, National Museum) and Marcello Bacciarelli (for the series of oval portraits of the Polish royal family, Poznan); we are grateful to Mr. Paul Kuznetsov for his help in cataloguing this lot.