Paris shines in December Chinese art sales


The Qianlong Imperial seal which was sold this month in Paris for euro 17.5m. (pounds sterling £14.58 equivalent). Picture courtesy Pierre Berge & Associes.

There were two exceptionally high prices achieved in this month’s Paris Asian Sales, which traditionally follow the London Asian beanfeast during November. Highest prices was achieved by a Qianlong seal, formerly the personal property of the Emperor. The sale, to an unnamed Chinese collector, took place in Paris on December 14 after a heated bidding war, the Drouot auction house said.

The palm-sized seal (actually 4in. square) is made of red and white steatite, a type of mineral rock from Fujian province. It was one of hundreds owned by Emperor Qianlong, The previous world record set for an auctioned seal was €14m in 2011 and the latest seal sold was originally acquired by a young French naval doctor who visited China in the late 19th Century, and had remained in his family ever since.

Local Asian art expert Alice Jossaume told AFP news agency it had been expected to sell for between €800,000 and €1m. Emperor Qianlong, an avid art collector who ruled China for much of the 18th Century, was an artist himself who would use seals to sign his works, and commissioned some for their intricate craftsmanship.

The seal  in question features nine dragons which signify masculinity and the imperial authority. Drouot said more than 1,800 Qianlong seals were made, out of which 700 disappeared. Another 1,000 are kept by China’s Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Christies held a euro 22.5 million Asian sale shortly afterwards. Of this total twelve million euros (pounds sterling ten million) was attributable to an 11th century gilt bronze figure of the Buddha Vairocana (see picture below).


Underrated Chilong vase sells at Bonhams for £110,5000

Bonhams chilong vase

A Chinese vase “forgotten” for years in a living room in Cumbria has sold Bonhams for more than £100,000.

The 18th Century famille rose Chllong bottle vase, thought to have maybe graced a Chinese imperial palace, was discovered at a Bonhams valuation day in Kendal in the English Lake District.

The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the vase was “plonked” on top of some furniture and she took it along at the last minute.

Bonhams senior valuer Chris Jarrey said they were “bowled over” when the vase was unwrapped from the owner’s towel.

He said: “She had a bag full of items, of which this [the vase] was the last item she brought out expecting it to be the least interesting.She had a box of quite nice silver spoons and one or two other bits and pieces, and then she just pulled this out, it was wrapped up in an old towel and she could see the expression on our faces.”

Mr Jarrey said the Chilong vases were “highly desirable” as they were produced for Chinese emperors.

Bearing the six-character seal mark of the great Emperor Qianlong, the vase was expected to fetch £50,000-80,000 so it came in just ahead of expectations. It sold for £110,500 at Bonhams Fine Chinese Art sale in London today.

Even bigger prices are expected next week with major sales at auction houses all over England, including Woolley & Wallis, Chiswick Auctions, Dreweatt & Bloomsbury and Dukes of Dorchester. Even remote Northumberland has an auction with more than 50 Chinese lots tomorrow, Saturday (