An imperial green jade seal of the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799) has exceeded all expectations at Sotheby's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Work of Art auction, which was held as part of Asia Week New York on March 19-20.
The seals were used by the emperor to give his approval to a range of documents and artworks
The seal led the sale, selling with an 127.5% increase on its $1.5m high estimate at $3.4m. The seals of the Qianlong emperor are some of the most treasured Chinese artefacts, each made to celebrate an important event in the life of the artistic ruler.
Learn more about the history of China's imperial seals.
The seal at auction was recently discovered in Washington State, having been passed down through the family of the consignor from his grandfather, a US brigadier who held several important positions in Europe during the second world war. According to Sotheby's, the family was unaware of its value until they brought it for evaluation.
Sotheby's soon revealed that this is the largest and one of the most important seals ever produced for the emperor. It was commissioned during the 1780s as part of a series to celebrate the emperor's 70th birthday, each of which was inscribed with "Guxi Tangzi", meaning "seal of the 70 year old son of heaven".
Three years later, the inscription "Wufu Wudai Tang Guxi Tiaxi Bao" was added to mark to birth of the emperor's grandson. It translates as "seal of the 70 year old son of heaven at the hall of five happiness' and five generations".
At the last Asia Week New York, held in September 2012, another seal of the Qianlong emperor also sold for $3.4m. For more of the top results from this year's event, visit our art & photography news section.