Old Summer Palace bronze heads

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The original figures in a drawing before the looting with all 12 head figures
The site of the water Fountain in 2013

The Twelve Old Summer Palace bronze heads are a collection of bronze fountainheads in the shape of the Chinese zodiac animals that was part of a water clock fountain in front of the Haiyantang (Chinese: 海晏堂; pinyin: Hǎiyàntáng) building of the Xiyang Lou (Western style mansions) area of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. Supposedly designed by Giuseppe Castiglione for the Qianlong Emperor, the statues would spout out water from their mouths to tell the time.[1][2]

The bronze-cast heads of the stone statues were among the treasures looted during the destruction of the Old Summer Palace by British and French expeditionary forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War.[3] Since then, they have been among the most visible examples of attempts to repatriate Chinese art and cultural artifacts. About the scandal with two of these heads, see 2009 auction of Old Summer Palace bronze heads.

An entire museum in Beijing run by the Poly Corp., which is operated by a state-owned military enterprise, is filled with repatriated artworks, including several other bronze animal heads that along with the two held by Saint Laurent were part of the set of 12 representing the signs of the Chinese zodiac. The museum bought the tiger, monkey and ox through auction houses in Hong Kong in 2000, while the pig’s head was recovered in New York by Hong Kong casino magnate Stanley Ho, who in turn donated it to the museum.[4]

Current status[edit]

Photo Animal Year recovered Current location Cost Notes
VM Yuanmingyuan Haiyantang Mouse 4428.jpg Rat 2013 National Museum of China[5] $18 million at hammer price Yves Saint Laurent's collection. Christie's, 2009.

Donated by François Pinault (Christie's owner) in a ceremony on June 28, 2013[5]

Beijing - Ox head of the old summer palace - reproduction.jpg Ox 2000 Poly Art Museum, Beijing USD $0,98 million Sotheby's London, June 1989.

By Christie's Hong Kong, 2000.[6] From China Poly Group Corp.

Beijing - Tiger head of the old summer palace - reproduction.jpg Tiger 2000 Poly Art Museum, Beijing USD $1,98 million Sotheby's London, June 1989.

By Sotheby's Hong Kong, 2000.[6] From China Poly Group Corp.

VM Yuanmingyuan Haiyantang bronze heads 4434.jpg
(4th from left)
Rabbit 2013 National Museum of China[5] $18 million at hammer price Yves Saint Laurent's collection. Christie's, 2009

Donated by François Pinault in a ceremony on June 28, 2013[5]

圆明园龙首.JPG Dragon 2018 - - Possibly sold on December 17, 2018 at auction house Tessier & Sarrou et Associés for $3.4 million[7]
Bronze snake head.JPG Snake - - - -
Bronze Horse Head Grand Lisboa 05.jpg Horse 2007 Capital Museum[8] US$8.9 million Sotheby's London, June 1989, 400,000 USD.

From Stanley Ho, by Sotheby's Hong Kong

Bronze goat head.JPG Goat - - - -
Beijing - Monkey head of the old summer palace - reproduction.jpg Monkey 2000 Poly Art Museum, Beijing US$1.03 million New York, 1987.

By Christie's Hong Kong, 2000[6] From China Poly Group Corp.

VM Yuanmingyuan Haiyantang bronze heads 4433.jpg
(3rd from right)
Rooster - - - -
圆明园狗首.JPG Dog - - - In 2003 a Hong Kong auction house planned to sell the fake[8]
Beijing - Pig head of the old summer palace - reproduction.jpg Pig 2003 Poly Art Museum, Beijing[8] US$0.77 million New York, 1987.[6]

From Stanley Ho[8]

In culture[edit]

  • Ai Weiwei in 2010 created his own interpretation of 12 heads "The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads", where 5 were recreated.[9] It exists in bronze and gold versions.[10] Sold for $4.4 million.[11]
  • CZ12 (2012) - Jackie Chan's movie about treasure hunting.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ CSmonitor.com. "CSmonitor.com." China protests Christie's auction in Paris of relics. Retrieved on 2009-02-20.
  2. ^ BBC News: Chinese zodiac statues' origins
  3. ^ Wtop.com. "Wtop.com." French judges allows auction of Chinese artifacts. Retrieved on 2009-02-20.
  4. ^ Demick, Barbara (2009). "Bronze heads gnaw at China". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c d "Looted Bronzes Return To China: Animal Heads Were Taken From Beijing Palace In 1860". Huffington Post. June 28, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Peter Hays Gries, Stanley Rosen. State and Society in 21st Century China: Crisis, Contention and Legitimation
  7. ^ "Has Another Old Summer Palace Zodiac Fountain Head Been Found?". Antiques And The Arts Weekly. 2019-01-08. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  8. ^ a b c d Li, Lillian (2012). "Relics & Controversy: The Controversy Surrounding the 12 Zodiac Animal Heads". The Garden of Perfect Brightness III: Destruction, Looting, and Memory (1860-Present). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
  9. ^ Telegraph. The meaning of Ai Weiwei's 12 Zodiac Heads
  10. ^ http://www.zodiacheads.com
  11. ^ Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads Hit $4.4 Million at $26.9 Million Phillips London Contemporary Art Evening Sale // ArtNet

External links[edit]