Thieves Route Fontainebleau Relics

Fontainebleau -- French authorities are searching for 15 gold and bronze artworks stolen from the Château de Fontainebleau in an early morning break-in on Sunday.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network have appreciated the artworks and antiques held in the famous château.

The target of the robbery was a crown that once belonged to the king of Siam, displayed in the back of the salon. The perpetrators broke into the castle shortly after 6:00 Sunday morning.

The burglars were out within at least seven minutes, the time between the alarm sounding and police arrived on the scene.

Officials have determined the theft was the work of "professionals." The missing treasures are all works from the 18th century, and were taken from the Chinese wing of the castle. Most were part of the collection of precious artifacts amassed by Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.

The Chinese Museum, on the ground floor of the Gros Pavillon, was among the last rooms decorated within the Château while it was still an imperial residence.

In 1867, the Empress Eugenie had the rooms remade to display her personal collection of Asian art, which included gifts given to the Emperor by a delegation sent by the King of Siam in 1861, and other objects taken during the destruction and looting of the Old Summer Palace near Beijng by a joint British-French military expedition to China in 1860.

The French culture ministry described it as "one of the most secure parts of the palace, equipped with alarms and surveillance cameras".

Fleur Pellerin, France’s minister of culture and communications, said in a statement to the press that among the missing pieces was a ritual symbol, a mandala, from Tibet, and the crown, made of gold, precious stones and pearls, and with a distinct tall peak, that was presented to Napoleon III in 1861 by the ambassador from Siam.

Officials have yet to provide an estimate of the value of the items, describing them as unique and priceless. Sunday’s heist is being investigated by the Central Office for the Fight Against Trafficking of Cultural Goods, or O.C.B.C., which is a special French unit that tracks stolen works of art and cultural objects.

The last time there was a robbery at the Fontainebleau was in 1995. Strangely the exact same number of artifacts were taken in that theft, nine of which were eventually recovered.

Continuous Royal Residence

With over 1500 rooms at the heart of 130 acres of parkland and gardens, Fontainebleau is the only royal and imperial château to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. A visit to Fontainebleau opens up an unparalleled view of French history, art history and architecture.

The palace has been used by French kings since the 12th Century.

Château de Fontainebleau is located 55 kilometers southeast of the centre of Paris, and is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The medieval castle and later château was the residence of French monarchs from Louis VII through Napoleon III.

Napoleon I abdicated his throne there before being exiled to Elba.

In his memoirs, written while in exile on Saint Helena, he recalled his time at Fontainbleau; “…the true residence of Kings, the house of the centuries. Perhaps it was not a rigorously architectural palace, but it was certainly a place of residence well thought out and perfectly suitable. It was certainly the most comfortable and happily situated palace in Europe.”

The Château is a national museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers a 'petit tour' of Empress Eugénie's Chinese Museum at Château Fontainebleau.