Chinese lawyers will sue auction giant Christie’s over the sale of relics owned by the late Yves Saint Laurent that they say were stolen from a looted Beijing palace, state press said yesterday.
The lawyers are hoping that French courts will stop the auction house from selling two bronze animal heads at a February sale in Paris and order the return of the relics to China, the Beijing Times reported.
“The lawsuit will be placed before a French court in accordance with international law,” Liu Yang, one of 67 Chinese lawyers working on the case, told the paper.
“We are demanding that the auction house stop the sale and order the owner of the stolen items to return them,” he said.
The relics currently belong to the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and were being put up for auction by the late fashion magnate’s partner Pierre Berge, the paper said. The two bronze animal heads once adorned the Old Summer Palace and were stolen when Western armies burnt the palace down during the second Opium War in 1860.
When announcing the auction last year, Christie’s reportedly estimated the two bronzes were worth up to US$28.6 million.
The bronzes were once part of a fountain that displayed the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Five of the bronze animal heads have already been returned to China, while the whereabouts of five others is unknown, the paper said.