An unnamed Chinese collector has bought an 18th century palm-sized Chinese imperial seal for a record USD 22 million, over 20 times its estimated price.
The sale took place in Paris on Wednesday after a heated bidding war, Drouot auction house said.
The seal, made of red and white steatite, a type of mineral rock, was sold for USD 22 million (21 million euros).
It was one of hundreds owned by Emperor Qianlong, one of the longest serving Chinese emperors.
Art experts had said the seal could fetch between 800,000 and 1 million euros.
The previous record set for an auctioned seal was USD 15 million in 2011. 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, Drouot said.
The seal in red and beige nephrite jade was used by Emperor Qianlong, the second longest serving emperor in Chinese history.
Emperor Qianlong’s reign in China, from 1736 to 1795, was only one year shorter than his grandpa Emperor Kangxi’s. During his period, Qing dynasty witnessed its peak of prosperity with a big population and a vast territory.
The seal decorated with nine dragons, the symbol of imperial authority, was used to sign Qianlong’s personal calligraphy and paintings as the characters “Emperor Qianlong’s paint brush” were carved underneath the seal, Xinhua news agency quoted the auction house as saying.
The seal was reportedly acquired by a French naval doctor who traveled many times to China in the late 19th century, and remained in his family ever since.
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.
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.