Emperor's '$98,500' rare jadeite seal heads to auction in May

A rare jadeite double-square seal, believed to have been an imperial seal of the Jiaqing emperor, who reigned in China during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, will be sold this May in London.

Taken from the Summer Palace during Britain's second opium war with China in 1860, it was brought to Britain by Liverpool born medical missionary, William Lockhart. 

The seal, which measures under an inch square, is estimated to sell for £40,000 to £60,000. It is being sold with William Lockhart's fan which is printed with a map of China on one side and a map of Beijing on the other. The location of Lockhart's hospital in Beijing is marked with an X.

The seal inscription reads in translation: "Jiaqing Emperor's Literary and Artistic Work", and "When does one have the leisure to delight the heart?"

Asaph Hyman, a specialist in Bonhams Chinese art department, commented: "The provenance of the present seal, the presence of the missionary Lockhart in Beijing certainly in 1861 and possibly during the sacking of the Yuanming yuan by the Anglo-French forces, and his unequivocal support of the actions taken by the English, is important evidence in support of the present seal's imperial origin.

Jiaqing ruled from 1796 to 1820

"We hope this seal will return to China as did the Qianlong emperor's personal seal which sold for £2.7m last May in London."

Collectors and investors will have to wait until May 12 to bid on the item.


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