French judge rejects request to stop auction of Chinese bronzes

A French judge on Monday rejected a petition by a pro-China association to block the sale of two Chinese bronze animal heads at the auction of late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's art collection, French radio reported.

The Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe had tried to prevent Christie's auction house from selling the two bronzes because they were allegedly looted from China by British and French troops 150 years ago, according to dpa.

The three-day auction, which has been described as the "sale of the century," got under way in Paris late Monday. The bronzes are now set to go under the hammer on Wednesday.

The bronze rat and rabbit heads are believed to be part of a set of 12 representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

They were cast in the late 1750s and displayed at Beijing's Old Summer Palace, from where they were believed to have been looted in the razing of the palace by a British- and French-led force from eight foreign powers during the second Opium War.

Saint Laurent's longtime partner, Pierre Berge, who put the enormous collection up for sale, said last week that he would return the bronzes to Chinese authorities only if they agreed to apply human rights and free Tibet. 

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