News Summary: Looted bronzes return to China

Bronzes looted from Beijing palace back in China as gift of family behind French luxury group

Associated Press

BACK IN BRONZE: China's National Museum unveiled a pair of Qing dynasty bronzes looted from a Beijing palace more than 150 years ago and returned this year by the family that runs French luxury-goods conglomerate Kering.

PILLAGERS KEEPERS: The bronzes were among 12 animal heads that formed the centerpieces of an elaborate zodiac fountain and were carried off during the sacking of the old Summer Palace in Beijing by French and British troops in 1860 at the close of the Second Opium War. The palace's buildings were burned and left in ruins as a punishment for the Qing emperor's obstinacy, and the bronzes spirited abroad into private hands.

NO HARD FEELINGS, RIGHT?: The recovery of the bronze heads of a rat and rabbit is a major in a victory for China's campaign to erase a legacy of past bullying by foreign powers, but also a masterful stroke of corporate public relations for a firm seeking fat profits from newly wealthy Chinese consumers with a growing taste for luxury. The bronzes had been owned by the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and were put up for auction in 2009 following his death. They were later acquired by the Pinault family, whose company owns a stable of luxury brands that includes Gucci and Saint Laurent, as well as the auction house Christies.

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