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01/11/2022 - 17:01

Two precious Nguyen Dynasty antiques up for auction in France

The treasure of the Nguyen Dynasty is a gold seal cast in 1823 during the reign of King Minh Mang (1820 - 1841) being prepared for auction by an auction company headquartered in France. This information amazes not only the circles of culture, research, and antique collection but also draws special attention from the public because this is prime historical evidence for the history of Vietnam.

Information of Nguyen Dynasty gold seal antique put up for auction on MILLON's website

Gold seal has a starting price of 48.1 - 72.2 billion VND

The auction information has been announced by MILLON auction company (headquartered in Paris, France) for many days on its official website. Among more than 300 antiques put up for auction are two Nguyen Dynasty antiques: a gold seal cast in 1823 during the Minh Mang reign (1820 - 1841) and a gold bowl of the Khai Dinh dynasty (1917 - 1925).

According to the description of the gold seal, this is the Nguyen dynasty seal, made of rare gold, cast in 1823 during the Minh Mang reign (1820-1841), consisting of a double square base stacked.

The antique is 10.4cm high; the seal face is square (13.8cm x 13.7cm), and it weighs 10.78kg. The handle is molded in the shape of a meandering dragon, with its head raised, eyes looking forward, and in a steady posture. The dragon's forehead has inscriptions; the dorsal fin and the dragon's tail are erect. The four molded dragon legs clearly show the five claws.

The top side of the seal and both sides of the seal handles are engraved with two lines of Chinese characters “Minh Mạng tứ niên, nhị nguyệt, sơ tứ nhật, cát thời chú tạo”, (roughly translated: Cast at an auspicious time on February 4 in the 4th year of the Minh Mang dynasty) and “Thập thành hoàng kim, trọng nhị bách bát thập lạng, cửu tiền nhị phân” (roughly translated: Made of pure gold, weighing 280 taels, 9 tien, and 2 phan, equivalent to 10.7 kg).

The lower side is embossed with 4 words “Hoàng đế chi bảo” (roughly translated: the Emperor’s treasure). This was originally one of the most important seals of the Nguyen Dynasty, used only for prime investitures.

The gold bowl of Khai Dinh dynasty put up for auction at a starting price of 20,000 - 25,000 EUR

Meanwhile, the gold bowl is depicted as follows: the outside of the bowl with carved designs, rồng mặt nạ (masked dragon), long hí thủy (dragon smiling at water), hốt như ý (fulfilled wishes) and thủy ba văn (water wave patterns). The inside of the bowl is embossed with three designs of two dragons in tidewater and four embossed Chinese characters “Khải Định niên tạo " (Created under the Khai Dinh dynasty " right in the middle. The top side is covered with a layer of dark brown glass. The bowl bottom is embossed with four Chinese characters: “Khải Định niên tạo ". The bowl mouth is 10.4cm in diameter, 7cm in height, and 456.6g in weight.

The starting prices offered by MILLON auction company for the gold seal and gold bowl are 2 - 3 million EUR (48.1 billion - 72.2 billion VND) and 20,000 - 25,000 EUR respectively. Both are expected to be put up for auction at 11 a.m. on October 31, 2022 (Paris time).

Is repatriation painless?

According to the experts, the antiques in Hue, both these antiques included, are of great historical value to Vietnam. So if they are "repatriated" like many other antiques, it will be a blessing. However, there is a remote possibility of “repatriation” because the auction starting price offered by the auction company is too high. Besides, once both the antiques are announced for public auction, the price will be unpredictable, even the recognized hammer price will be many times higher.

Regarding this information, the Cultural Heritage Administration under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sent an official dispatch to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The official dispatch stated: After the National Resistance War (December 1946), two antiques fell into the hands of the French, and on March 8, 1952, the French held a ceremony to hand over the seal and sword to former emperor Bao Dai and brought it to France in 1953. Before his death (in 1997), former emperor Bao Dai made a will to leave all his assets in France (including the gold seal “Hoàng đế chi bảo”) to his wife, Mrs. Monique Baudot, French.  She died in 2021; the above property belonged to the heirs and is put up for auction.

Top side of Nguyen Dynasty gold seal

The “Hoàng đế chi bảo” (the Emperor’s treasure) seal, used for public and political activities of the Nguyen Dynasty during a historical period, is of historical and cultural significance. Therefore, it is needed to seek to bring the seal back to Vietnam…,” the official dispatch by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism stated.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to direct the Vietnamese Embassy in France to promptly work directly with MILLON auction company to verify the information relevant to the auction of the above-mentioned antiques as announced by the Company (including information about the owner, the legality of the 2 antiques, the expected selling price, and the possibility of negotiation for direct purchase without auction...).

In addition, it is needed to promptly find out about and propose the plan in accordance with the law of the host country and international practices in order to "repatriate" 2 antiques grounded on the result of working with the auction company.

The representative of the leadership of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center said that not only the center and province but also the ministries and functional agencies give great attention to these two antiques after the auction company in France publicized the auction information.

“Two antiques up for auction are at the national level. As Vietnamese citizens, everyone desires the historical and cultural values of the country to be back," he said, but the price offered is quite high. Currently, the center and relevant units are also keeping a weather eye on the progress of this auction.

By Nhat Minh

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