January 14, 2011
Both of the major auction houses dealing with fine art seem to be equally comfortable about selling looted & disputed artefacts. In many cases however, subsequent public outcry has led to postponement of the sale. In this case, Christies in Hong Kong is selling yet more artefacts that came from Beijing’s Summer Palace. This looting during the ransacking of the Summer Palace is particularly relevant of course, as it took place under the instruction of the Eighth Earl of Elgin – the son of Lord Elgin who removed the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens.
Looted Imperial Treasure Hits the Block at Christie’s Hong Kong
HONG KONG— There were just three lots in the sale of imperial treasures from the Fonthill Collection at Christie’s Hong Kong on December 1, but they attracted intense interest and raked in a total of HK$226.3 million ($29 million). The reason? Their links to one of the most infamous acts of foreign plunder inflicted on 19th-century imperial China.
The Fonthill Collection was the creation of a passionate collector by the name of Alfred Morrison (1821-1897). The Chinese works in the Christie’s sale came to him via one Lord Loch of Drylaw, who served as private secretary to Lord Elgin on the latter’s fateful mission to China at the end of the Second Opium War. Lord Loch acquired the plundered items after the 1860 destruction and looting by French and British troops of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing.
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