Paris shines in December Chinese art sales

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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).

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