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Qing imperial seals set auction records


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#1 Liu

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 12:50 PM

June 15, 2008 - 9:02AM

Chinese seal sells for record price

TOULOUSE, France, June 14 AFP - A seal of the Chinese emperor Kangxi sold at auction in France for 4.7 million euros ($A7.7 million), a world record price for such an object, the sale's organisers said today.

"It is a world record for a seal and a European record for a Chinese object," auctioneer Herve Chassaing told reporters after the sale in the southern French city of Toulouse.

The 3kg beige soapstone seal was one of 130 personal seals used by the 17th-18th century emperor Kangxi. It bears six calligraphic figures along with two dragons in clouds.

It was bought by an unnamed buyer or buyers from China bidding by telephone.

The starting price for the seal was 300,000 euros ($A496,000). The total price it fetched was 5.6 million euros ($A9.26 million) including sales fees.

Asian art expert Pierre Ansas said the seal was an "important historical object", saying the multi-talented emperor used it to sign "those works of calligraphy and paintings done by him which he held dear".

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Ansas said what made the seal especially rare was that it was found in its original ivory-and-lacquer box and the fact that it was unusually large.

Auctioneer Chassaing found the object in the closet of a wealthy Toulouse family who were not aware :rolleyes: of either its use or value.

Emperors of China, their families and officials used large seals usually made of jade, although hard woods and precious metals could sometimes be used.

Originally square in shape, they were changed to a rectangular form during the Song Dynasty, but reverted to square during the time of the Qings.

Posted Image

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Edited by Liu, 15 June 2008 - 12:53 PM.

问世间情为何物,直叫生死相许?

#2 kaiselin

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 12:59 PM

What an excellent example of a Qing seal.
Wish we could see what the actual seal looked like.

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#3 Peng

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:50 AM

How did the seal end up in France?

#4 Liu

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 05:56 AM

How did the seal end up in France?


The press article doesn't mention it. It says only that for inheritance purpose, it has been found in the closet of a wealthy family who were not aware of either its use or value.
问世间情为何物,直叫生死相许?

#5 大泽升龙

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 07:53 PM

The press article doesn't mention it. It says only that for inheritance purpose, it has been found in the closet of a wealthy family who were not aware of either its use or value.


Any one here should know the story of Yuan Ming Yuan (圆明园).

#6 fcharton

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 08:20 AM

Any one here should know the story of Yuan Ming Yuan (圆明园).


(hehe I had a bet on the fact that Yuanmingyuan would show up in this thread... thanks DZ!)

I tried to find some more information in the news, but couldn't find any. Apparently, it is very hard to know where this comes from. I do understand looting is an easy explanation, and Yuanmingyuan is too famous an instance not to be thought of, but in this case I would tend to doubt it, because the sacking of the summer palace is a relatively late event. (Seriously, if a chinese collector had such a seal, no one would even think of the boxers or any late Qing event as the reason, that it appeared in a western collection is no proof either).

Anyone has some more info? Liu?

Francois

#7 大泽升龙

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 10:11 AM

(hehe I had a bet on the fact that Yuanmingyuan would show up in this thread... thanks DZ!)

I tried to find some more information in the news, but couldn't find any. Apparently, it is very hard to know where this comes from. I do understand looting is an easy explanation, and Yuanmingyuan is too famous an instance not to be thought of, but in this case I would tend to doubt it, because the sacking of the summer palace is a relatively late event. (Seriously, if a chinese collector had such a seal, no one would even think of the boxers or any late Qing event as the reason, that it appeared in a western collection is no proof either).

Anyone has some more info? Liu?

Francois


Yuan-Ming Garden was de facto Qing dynasty's political centre instead of the Forbidden City after Shunzi emperor. Some imperial collections could easily be found there like in the Forbidden City. I have two points to comment for the behaviours of Frenchies and Brits then:
Frenchies: they were prepared and they had some scholars who were aware of the value of Chinese antiques, so they robbed the most valuable things there.
Birts: they were bold and they robbed anything movable left by the Frenchies, after that they distoy everything unmovable and set fire on them to detroy the crime scene.

So I will say Frenchies were smart, but Brits were smarter!

I will never be surprised if a jade seal of Kangxi or Qianlong appearing in some French guy's wardrobe. However, personally I think the real anwser is difficult to find out. If the seal was confirmed as a robbery from Yuan-Ming Garden, the Chinese government may claim it by some international law.

Edited by 大泽升龙, 27 June 2008 - 11:12 AM.


#8 fcharton

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 12:04 PM

I will never be surprised if a jade seal of Kangxi or Qianlong appearing in some French guy's wardrobe. However, personally I think the real anwser is difficult to find out. If the seal was confirmed as a robbery from Yuan-Ming Garden, the Chinese government may claim it by some international law.


Actually, you'd be amazed at the number of chinese antiques which can be found in Europe. Collecting chinese art was quite fashionable here since the 17th century, and old families would sometimes have very rare pieces in their collections, most of them acquired long before the opium wars, or the concessions.

As for the chinese government, so far, it does not seem intent to make such claims. Note that the two bronze heads of the Yuanmingyuan, which had clearly been looted, appears on auctions twice in the last 20 years. The first time, in 1989, the event was hardly mentioned in China. The second time, the chinese government didn't attempt anything, and let HK and Macao tycoons buy it for very high prices. In this particular case, the chinese media mentioned the auction, but were characteristically prudent on the origin of the seal.

But anyway, claiming such artefacts is quite problematic because even if the stolen origin of an object can be proven, it might have been legally bought by later owners, for instance, the chinese collector who bought this Kangxi seal, or (perhaps) the Toulouse family who were its previous owners. Considering the former as acceptable, and the latter as looting, on the basis of nationality would certainly be hard to defend from a legal point of view. As such, making such claims imply being able to prove not only the origin of the piece, but also its transmission. For this reason, many legal systems (including the chinese, I think) define "statutes of limitations", which limit the duration after the event where such claims can be made.

For what I know, such claims mostly happen for very recent events (eg WWII), or objects which in museums or other national collections (eg Egyptian relics here and there).

Francois

Edited by fcharton, 27 June 2008 - 12:15 PM.


#9 大泽升龙

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 03:02 PM

Actually, you'd be amazed at the number of chinese antiques which can be found in Europe. Collecting chinese art was quite fashionable here since the 17th century, and old families would sometimes have very rare pieces in their collections, most of them acquired long before the opium wars, or the concessions.

As for the chinese government, so far, it does not seem intent to make such claims. Note that the two bronze heads of the Yuanmingyuan, which had clearly been looted, appears on auctions twice in the last 20 years. The first time, in 1989, the event was hardly mentioned in China. The second time, the chinese government didn't attempt anything, and let HK and Macao tycoons buy it for very high prices. In this particular case, the chinese media mentioned the auction, but were characteristically prudent on the origin of the seal.

But anyway, claiming such artefacts is quite problematic because even if the stolen origin of an object can be proven, it might have been legally bought by later owners, for instance, the chinese collector who bought this Kangxi seal, or (perhaps) the Toulouse family who were its previous owners. Considering the former as acceptable, and the latter as looting, on the basis of nationality would certainly be hard to defend from a legal point of view. As such, making such claims imply being able to prove not only the origin of the piece, but also its transmission. For this reason, many legal systems (including the chinese, I think) define "statutes of limitations", which limit the duration after the event where such claims can be made.

For what I know, such claims mostly happen for very recent events (eg WWII), or objects which in museums or other national collections (eg Egyptian relics here and there).

Francois


I personally think the claim won't work since it become the history. As long as the valuable things are well preserved and appreciated, I think it is OK.

I forget to tell you French people in my last post. I should say in the Yuan-Ming Yuan robbery:
"At first French was smart, then British was smarter, and later on French was even more smarter."
Because after British burnt Yuan-Ming Yuan down, French condemned British's savage behaviour as if they were a group of gentlemen. What a satire?! There is a Chinese saying "五十步笑百步". :haha:

Edited by 大泽升龙, 27 June 2008 - 03:14 PM.


#10 Liu

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 03:02 PM

(hehe I had a bet on the fact that Yuanmingyuan would show up in this thread... thanks DZ!)

I tried to find some more information in the news, but couldn't find any. Apparently, it is very hard to know where this comes from. I do understand looting is an easy explanation, and Yuanmingyuan is too famous an instance not to be thought of, but in this case I would tend to doubt it, because the sacking of the summer palace is a relatively late event. (Seriously, if a chinese collector had such a seal, no one would even think of the boxers or any late Qing event as the reason, that it appeared in a western collection is no proof either).

Anyone has some more info? Liu?

Francois


Well, I'm afraid I didn't find any information that could explain how it comes to France and where it comes from.
I found an interesting video from the expert Pierre Ansas, who's explaining all the secrets of this seal... except the story of its long travel to France.
I'm sorry for our CHF friends, it is in french language, but it is worth it to look at the object, in particular the back of the seal and its original ivory-and-lacquer box.

Link to the Video
问世间情为何物,直叫生死相许?

#11 kaiselin

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 07:38 PM

Well, I'm afraid I didn't find any information that could explain how it comes to France and where it comes from.
I found an interesting video from the expert Pierre Ansas, who's explaining all the secrets of this seal... except the story of its long travel to France.
I'm sorry for our CHF friends, it is in french language, but it is worth it to look at the object, in particular the back of the seal and its original ivory-and-lacquer box.

Link to the Video



Thanks Liu,
I got to see the bottom of the actual seal. But being backwards, I could not identify the characters. The video gives a nice close look at the carving of the Dragons face. Very nice.

The box is very nice as well.

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#12 Liu

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 10:57 AM

Thanks Liu,
I got to see the bottom of the actual seal. But being backwards, I could not identify the characters.

Here's a picture of its back. Pierre Ansas mentions that its exact translation is : "Here is the brush of the big seal of the emperor Kangxi"

Is there someone in CHF who would be able to read these characters ?

Posted Image
问世间情为何物,直叫生死相许?

#13 大泽升龙

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 11:59 AM

Here's a picture of its back. Pierre Ansas mentions that its exact translation is : "Here is the brush of the big seal of the emperor Kangxi"

Is there someone in CHF who would be able to read these characters ?

Posted Image


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#14 Chen06

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 12:21 PM

It must be stolen from Yuan Ming Yuan. How could the "EMPEROR" Kang Xi's seal get out of the Imperial Palace if it wasn't stolen? Anyway, this thing should be in the NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM. Whoever bought it should donate it to the museum right now
Posted Image


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#15 Pattie

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 01:51 PM

It must be stolen from Yuan Ming Yuan. How could the "EMPEROR" Kang Xi's seal get out of the Imperial Palace if it wasn't stolen? Anyway, this thing should be in the NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM. Whoever bought it should donate it to the museum right now


I'm just curious; stolen or not, why should the new owner donate it? The unknown buyer dumped a chunk o' change on an item that was presented to the public for acquisition. If the National Palace Museum wanted it, they could have bid like anyone else.

According to the article, this is one of 130 personal seals. Should the NPM own them all? What would that accomplish? Personally, when I visit a museum, I prefer to see a select, few items as all too soon I'm full up and the brain is on overload. Were the NPM to have all 130, on display at once, do you think this one seal would garner more attention than its neighbors? Or would it simply be something that people glance at, comment on the size of the collection, and hurry onto the next big thing?

Returning articles to their rightful owners and/or place of origin is a subject that needs to be examined case by case. Blanket statements, where the current owner is unknown, is simply a knee-j*** reaction to the thought that someone, other than us, might lock the item in question away where future generations won't have access to it...and yet, the new owner might be Chinese and already have 5 other Kang Xi personal seals in his collection.
Cheers,
 

Pattie


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