BEIJING, April 29 (UPI) -- French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault is returning two bronze heads to China that were looted from Beijing's Summer Palace in 1860, officials said.
Pinault, the heir and chief executive of fashion conglomerate Kering Inc., acquired the heads from Christie's auction house and announced he was returning them to China during the weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"It is not only a friendly gesture to the Chinese people, but will also be conducive to the return of more Chinese relics from overseas," China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage said in a statement.
The agency said about 1.5 million items were stolen from the Summer Palace and are currently being housed in 2,000 museums in 47 countries.
The the two heads were part of a set of 12 representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Christie's acquired the heads from the estate of the late designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Christie's tried to auction off the heads in 2009, but a Chinese group dedicated to repatriating antiques entered a fake bid, derailing the auction.
Pinault later acquired the heads from Christie's, which is owned by his holding company.
The heads will be returned to China in July and will be displayed at the National Museum of China, said Song Xinchao, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.