This imperial seal from the Qianlong period kept all its promises, and even more, since it fetched €1,860,000 after an estimate of €1 M. Of the twelve Qing emperors, Qianlong was the one who possessed not only the largest amount of seals – around 1,800 – but also the most beautiful. This can be seen from the picture of this example, engraved with an inscription in zhuanshu, from a collection of political documents of sovereigns from Chinese antiquity, dating from the 3rd millenium BC to the end of the Western Zhou period (627 BC). The sovereign affixed it on paintings and calligraphies to express his respect for the intellectual elites. "Suo Bao Wei Xian" is the abridged form of the following motto: “If you take no heed of precious objects, instead considering talented men as the only treasures of the State, everybody will bow down to you.” This sentence was regarded by a number of Chinese emperors as one of the most important political principles. As we know, the nine dragons were highly significant: the animal symbolised Imperial authority, and the number 9 – the biggest of the one-digit odd numbers –the most powerful masculine force in nature. The Shoushan steatite in which the seal is carved was the variety of stone most sought-after by scholars for this type of object from the 16th century onwards: the caramel-yellow Tian huang variety, known as “the emperor of stones”. A word on the provenance of this Imperial treasure: it comes from the family of a French diplomat posted to Beijing in the 1900s. In his letters to his mother, he describes his visits to the Imperial family and the custom of official gifts – to the great joy of his descendants…
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The Louvre is thinking big. With its new spaces dedicated to art from Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette, the Parisian Museum provides a lesson on style, paying splendid homage to the French way of life and expertise. From the strong hues of the absolute rule of the Sun King to the livelier, more varied colours of the "Beloved's" reign and the softer tones of his successor's times, the Musée du Louvre’s new rooms dedicated to the arts of three Louis of France lack neither panache nor typically French rigour as far as museography is concerned.…
While the capital takes its summer break, auctions wend their way to the seaside. Monaco stages its traditional jewellery, vintage and modern/contemporary art sales, and Deauville a number of events focusing on the horse.
Asian week produced some substantial results, particularly with Chinese objects; also some excellent bids for ethnic and contemporary art.
July / August 2014 Edition
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