Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Qing Bronzes Fetch Big Bucks After Court Turns Away Repatriation Challenge

Bloomberg reports that a bronze rabbit head and a bronze rat head from the Qing Dynasty's Yuanmingyuan (Summer Palace) fountain were sold at Christie’s sale of the YSL Collection today for 15,745,000 Euros (approx. US $20,100,000) each. See:

The successful sale followed an unsuccessful legal challenge. The Association for the Protection of the Art of China in Europe had sought to block the auction because the bronzes had been allegedly taken following an Anglo-French punitive expedition at the end of the Opium wars c. 1860. A French Court found the group's claims to be without legal merit and ordered the group to pay Court costs.

Not everyone buys the Chinese story, but it is undisputed that the fountain and its animals were designed by an Italian Jesuit. See: Odd that "Italian" garden decorations of relatively recent vintage have provoked such a controversy and have merited such a high price at auction. But, then again, passions ignited by nationalism tend to skew things in strange ways.

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