French judge authorises sale of Chinese bronzes

24th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The 18th century Qing dynasty bronzes -- part of a collection looted 150 years ago by British and French troops from the imperial Summer Palace -- are to go under the hammer this week.

Paris -- A French judge authorised Monday the sale of two Chinese bronzes at the auction of Yves Saint Laurent artworks, rejecting a plea for them to be returned to China.

The 18th century Qing dynasty bronzes -- part of a collection looted 150 years ago by British and French troops from the imperial Summer Palace -- are to go under the hammer on Wednesday.

A French-based Chinese art association, Apace, had asked the judge to serve an injunction preventing the sale, arguing the bronzes remain stolen property, but the court decided it had no jurisdiction to rule in the case.

The association has wanted the court to force the French state to intervene and negotiate the return of the items with Beijing authorities.

The prosecutor described it as a "cavalier" plea and "abuse of procedure" by "an association that only represents itself" and called on the court to fine Apace "because a minimum of respect for justice is called for."

A lawyer for the Association to Protect Chinese Art in Europe group told the court its aim was to "alert public opinion on the fate of numerous Chinese works stolen in the past and sold through trafficking."

Christie's, which is organising the 300 million euro (392 million dollar) auction, has consistently argued there are no legal grounds to bar the sale of the two rare pieces.

The three-day sale began Monday.

AFP/Expatica

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