Qing emperor’s seal sells for record $22 million
An 18th-century Chinese imperial seal sold for a record $22 million in Paris on Wednesday — more than 20 times its estimate, the Drouot auction house said, a world record for this kind of bids.
Decorated with nine stylized dragons, the symbol of imperial authority, the extremely rare stamp in red and beige nephrite jade comes from the Qianlong period.
It was snapped up by an unnamed Chinese collector after a furious bidding battle between telephone buyers and those in the salesroom.
The previous record for a seal had been set in 2011 when one was bought for $15 million.
The Chinese imperial seal, remarkable for being “very red, almost blood” red according to Asian art expert Alice Jossaume, had been expected to sell for about $1 million.
It belonged to the Emperor Qianlong (1711-99), who is regarded as the longest serving emperor in Chinese history.
“The Qianlong period is highly prized, it’s flourishing, it’s the absolute pinnacle,” Jossaume said.
“All pieces from this period are highly sought after.”
Under this hugely capable and cultured emperor, the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) reached its apogee of wealth and power, almost doubling in size during his six decade reign.
The nine dragons that decorate the seal’s sides symbolize both his masculine power and imperial authority.
On the back of the seal, there is an inscription written in an ancient script saying: “Treasure of the imperial brush of Qianlong”.
The emperor was known to be a talented calligrapher and poet and this seal was one he used to sign his works.
Qianlong’s reputation was one of a protector of the arts and literature, as well as a compulsive collector.
He is said to have acquired one of the biggest world art collections and founded the Library of Four Treasures, the largest collection of books in Chinese history.
The empire’s population rose to some 400 million people as he expanded its borders.
The seal was acquired by a French naval doctor in China in the late 19th century.
An imperial seal of Emperor Qianlong.