Francois-Henri Pinault, the owner of Christie’s has returned two Qianlong (18th-century) bronze sculptures looted 150 years ago from a fountain located in the Old Summer Palace, in China . They were held in the private collection of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and auctioned in his estate sale last year.
“By returning these two marvels to China, my family is loyal to its commitment to preserving national heritage and artistic creation,” Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive of luxury and retail group Kering said, at a ceremony at China’s National Museum, near Tiananmen Square.
Francois Pinault,, Francois-Henri’s father along with the Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong unveiedl the treasures for the press yesterday. “For my family it is above all a contribution to the promotion of art, and the preservation of an important cultural heritage,” Pinault said. “We always have the desire to accompany our enterprises with gestures and actions not necessarily economic or financial, but environmental or in the artistic domain,” He said.
The Royal building was ransacked and much of it was destroyed when French and British troops attacked in 1860, during the Second Opium War. The sculptures were recently offered as lots in the auction of the collection of the fashion couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his partner and heir, Pierre Bergé. A mystery buyer bid the sculptures up 28m Euros and defaulted on the sale,protesting that they were stolen and part of China’s cultural heritage. The bronzes were returned to Bergé and later acquired by Pinault, for an undisclosed sum.
The Zodiac animal heads depicting a rat and a rabbit, part of a toward the Chinese people,” a Chinese spokesman for the country’s Administration of Cultural Heritage stated. This month Christie’s announced they had obtained the first and only license to exclusively operate in Shanghai. They are now the only foreign auction house to independently mount sales in China.
The Pinault family control one of the largest luxury brand corporations in the world, It includes: the Chateau Latour vineyard in Bordeaux, Gucci, Alexander McQueen,Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and St. Laurent Paris.