An 18th century Chinese imperial seal sold for a staggering €21 million at a Paris auction this week.
The seal garnered such interest that the lot was subject to an intense bidding war which drove the price to over 20 times pre auction estimates and €7 million above the previous world record set back in 2011.
Featuring nine dragons which signify masculinity and the imperial authority, the palm-sized seal is made of a type of mineral rock, red and white steatite. The number of dragons on the seal represent nine being the maximum figure in Chinese cosmology.
Emperor Qianlong was famous for the number of his imperial seals and their remarkable execution and 1,800 Qianlong seals were made in total, out of which 700 disappeared and another 1,000 are kept by China’s Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City.
This was one of hundreds owned by Emperor Qianlong himself, one of the longest-serving emperors in Chinese history and one who was an avid artist during his 6 decade reign.
The emperor would use the seals to sign his works and the markings underneath this seal reiterate the famous saying: ‘Emperor Qianlong’s paint brush’, meaning everything he had painted or written himself.
The seal, which crafted during this Qianlong period (1736-1795), was involved in a frantic battle between bidders in the room and on telephones before the hammer was eventually bought by an unnamed Chinese collector.
Qianlong was an emperor of the Qing dynasty, and oversaw it reaching the height of its wealth and power, almost doubling in size during his reign, which saw their borders expand and the empire’s population grow to around 400 million people.