Chinese imperial soapstone seal smashes auction record

A Chinese imperial soapstone seal achieved a record $22m at Drouot in Paris last night. 

It had originally been valued at $1m, an estimate it exceeded by a massive 1,200%.

The seal is made from soapstone, mined near the city of Shoushan 

It was consigned by the family of a 19th century French doctor, who travelled widely in China during the 1800s.

This was a period when China was under the yoke of the European colonial powers and a great deal of its finest cultural artefacts were sold off to the highest bidder (or simply taken).

It has become a mark of pride for wealthy figures in China to buy them back.   

The lot was made for the Qianlong emperor, who presided over a great flourishing of Chinese art and culture in the 18th century.

It's carved from red and white soapstone, which is only found near the city of Shoushan in Fuijan Province, and displays nine dragons chasing a pearl.

The emperor was particularly fond of seals and owned more than 1,800 of them. Of these, around 1,000 are stored in the Museum of the Forbidden City and another 700 are lost to time.

This leaves 100 or so on the private market.

Earlier this year a khotan jade seal made for Qianlong realised $11.7m at Sotheby's, indicating the demand for these attractive and highly collectible objects.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock