Exhibiting and Auctioning Yuanmingyuan ('Summer Palace') Loot in 1860s and 1870s London: The Elgin and Negroni Collections

Louise Tythacott

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This article examines the exhibitions and sales of Yuanmingyuan (or 'Summer Palace') loot taken from China in October 1860 by two soldiers in the Anglo-French armies - James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-1863) and Captain Jean-Louis de Negroni (b.1820). Both men displayed their collections before auctioning them - the former in the prestigious South Kensington Museum (now the VA) in 1862; the latter in a well known exhibitionary site, the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in 1865. Such displays and public exhibitions were used as a device for enhancing the value of collections destined for the art market. This paper focuses on the commercial and exhibitionary practices at play in the dispersal of Elgin's and Negroni's collections of Summer Palace loot. It examines how these objects became enmeshed in the interacting system of auction, dealer and exhibitionary sphere, emphasising the role of auction houses, the significance of British press coverage in confirming the quality and value of collections, and the inter-relationships with prominent sites of public display in 1860s and 1870s London.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal for Art Market Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes

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