Saint Laurent Chinese Qing Bronzes Fetch $40 Million

Two Qing bronzes fetched a total of 31.4 million euros ($40 million) with fees in Paris tonight after objections from the Chinese government and a legal challenge failed to halt the auction, Bloomberg reported.

The mid-18th-century heads of a rat and a rabbit were offered in the final session of Christie's International's three-day sale of the collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his former partner Pierre Berge.

Both made 15.7 million euros with fees, or 14 million euros at hammer price. The sculptures had been expected to fetch about 8 million euros each, said Christie's. They were bought by Thomas Seydoux, Christie's international co-head of Impressionist and modern art, taking instructions over the telephone.

The heads, thought to have been designed by the Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione, were among 12 zodiac animals from a water-clock fountain in one of the Imperial summer palaces. The building was set ablaze and its treasures plundered and scattered by British and French troops in October 1860 at the end of the second Opium War.

China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage last week wrote to Christie's, calling for the auction house not to sell the heads, said China's official Xinhua News Agency.

A Paris court ruled on Feb. 23 that Christie's could sell the sculptures after a challenge brought by Chinese cultural defense group, Apace.

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