Publié par Antiques Trade Gazette - The Art Market Weekly

THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON – CHINESE BRONZE SCULPTURE COULD BE SUMMER PALACE DISCOVERY

Did the final days of 2018 provide the year’s greatest discovery? Bidders who pursued a bronze dragon head from €20,000 to €3m at the Drouot in Paris on December 17 certainly thought so.

Speculation after the sale was that the 18in (45cm) high sculpture – consigned by the family of a 19th century French diplomat – was one of the five missing heads from the famous zodiac fountain in the Haiyantang area of the Yuanmingyuan (the Old Summer Palace in Beijing).
The buyer has not been disclosed but Alice Jossaume, expert in charge of the sale at Tessier & Sarrou et Associés, told ATG it had sold in the room to one of three serious competitors. The price with 25% buyer’s premium was €3m (£2.2m).


Cultural heritage

The fountain heads, designed by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) for the Qianlong emperor, have assumed a special, and highly sensitive, place in China’s cultural heritage.
Although they amount to just 12 of the estimated million-plus items that were removed after French and British forces sacked the Yuanmingyuan in the final act of the Second Opium War (October 1860), they have become totemic of China’s century of humiliation at the hands of imperial Western powers.