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Collector wants to exhibit King Ham Nghi's painting

VietNamNet Bridge – The French owner of King Ham Nghi's painting Chieu ta (Declin du Jour) wants to exhibit it in Viet Nam on the occasion of the sovereign's 70th death anniversary.

Gerard Chapuis told a Hue-based researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan in a letter: "However, I'm worried about its safety."

Chapuis, who is of Vietnamese origin and lives in Marseille, asked Xuan to negotiate with the Hue Centre for Monuments Conservation and other government agencies to arrange the best way to bring it to Viet Nam.

Ham Nghi created the 35x46cm oil painting in 1915 while living in Gia Long Villa in the Algerian capital of Algiers.

It was exhibited at a few venues in Paris when Chapuis bought it in auction for 8,800 euros (nearly US$11,000) plus tax of over 11,000 euros.

Thus, if it comes to Viet Nam, it will only be the second time it is displayed in public.

Ham Nghi was the eighth king of the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), and ruled for only one year (1884-85) when he orchestrated several revolts against the French colonialists.

In 1885, at the tender age of 14, he led the massive Can Vuong uprising for which he was arrested by the French and exiled to Algeria in 1888. He died in 1943 and was buried in Aquitaine, France, in 1965.

Xuan said Chapuis also owned many other Hue relics, including works by famous painters and invaluable old books.

"A safe return of the painting would pave the way for the repatriation of other Vietnamese cultural relics now scattered around the world," he said.

Phan Thanh Hai, director of Hue Centre for Monuments Conservation, said the centre would confirm the information and try to contact Chapuis to bring the painting to Viet Nam for public display.

Next year it would organise some events to mark the 70th anniversary of King Ham Nghi's death, he added.

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