Qing em­peror’s seal sells for record $22 mil­lion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGENCIES in Paris

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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

An im­pe­rial seal of Em­peror Qian­long.

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