Marie Ange Saulnier-Ciolkowska Marie Ange Saulnier-Ciolkowska by Hermione Waterfield Marie Ange Saulnier-Ciolkowska was an inspiration to those who met her and her apartment on 26 rue Jacob a treasure house. Born in 1898 she married in 1924 the painter and art critic Henri Saulnier Ciolkowska who was an enthusiastic browser of antique shops. In one he met a missionary and through him acquired objects from missions in Africa. Her friend and music hall artist, Suzy Solidor had opened a shop on the quai Voltaire a La Grande Mademoiselle in 1930, and when Henri died in 1933 she invited Marie-Ange to join her. This was a success – and helped support her and her son Tony who was born in 1926. She met more artists and writers including Picasso. During World War II she was active in the Resistance which earned her the Croix de Guerre with bronze star. Henri had had his office on rue Jacob, and more rooms were rented by Marie Ange’s mother who then lived there with her daughter and then grandson. They all lived there until they died. Over the years rue Jacob was a lively scene, often with dancing enjoyed by André Breton, Tristan Tzara, Madeleine Rousseau (with whom she worked closely), the Loebs, the Verités amongst others. She had good contacts in museums – for instance she helped disperse the “duplicates” from the museum in Hamburg after it was bombed. She sent much across the Atlantic to J.J.Klejman. Marie Ange with Herbert Rieser in Mali, c. 1970 © Philippe Bourgoin Archives Tony Saulnier became a photographer who worked for Paris Match who sent him on an expedition up the river Niger in 1957. He returned enthusiastic about Bandiagara cliffs in Mali and persuaded Marie-Ange to take him on further trips: he was initiated into some Dogon rites, so they had access to more than the usual. She told the tale of an excursion when a guide took them on foot for four or five days, carrying the necessary chickens to be offered to the chief. He appeared wearing little besides bunches of leaves, accepted the fowl and gave his permission to photograph as they wished – and added that he would appreciate it if they also photographed his grand-daughter who had just returned from Paris where she had taken her baccalauréat. Marie-Ange was devoted to the Dogon. After Tony died in 1968 in an airline accident, Herbert Rieser, a photographer who became a dealer, would accompany her on those trips. They would set out from Paris in her deux chevaux crossing Spain to drive all the way to Mali. Tony left a son, Eric, to whom Marie-Ange was devoted, Eric in turn had three children - they all lived for a time with her at no. 26. It was Herbert Rieser who took me to dine with her one evening in 1975. Her bed was in an alcove which was flanked by masks from Gabon, some of which are in the iconic photograph that Tony took, of eight people around a table each with a mask. It was reproduced in Paris Match in 1966. The walls of a room were covered in Samoan tapa cloth, and there were magnificent objects everywhere. Marie-Ange was obsessed with mermaids and had a collection of the strange creatures. John Hewett even gave her a rose called Mermaid. Her tiny maid Aline, was a very good cook who always produced delicious food, washed down with an excellent Medoc wine. Artists, writers, dancers and friends from around the world gathered round a table next to the kitchen, but by 1975 we were seldom more than six. Marie-Ange Ciolkowska with her grand-daughter c. 1990 © Philippe Bourgoin Archives Her summers were spent in the south of France where she ran a restaurant near Ramatuelle. Peter Wilson, chairman of Sotheby’s was a good friend with whom she stayed in London, rising early some mornings to go to the flower markets to buy plants for his garden. One summer when there was a crisis among the staff Peter stepped in as maitre-de-vin, and collector George Ortiz, as a waiter. Together they made it fun. George hounded Marie-Ange to sell him the Nukuoro figure that she had bought from Ken Webster who had it by exchange from James Hooper. Eventually, through the intermediary of the mischievous Sammy Eilenberg, George succeeded - for a rumoured million. Illness clouded her last years. I was there during one visit from her doctor, who was obviously a good friend and fond of her, who asked her if again she had called him “to witness her last breath”. After her death in 1992 some objects from her collection appeared on the market, but much was bequeathed to Eric who has now decided to sell some more.