Published: October 20, 2021
PHILADELPHIA — As expected, at Freeman’s Asian art auction on October 14, a rare imperial “Emperor Emeritus” celadon-white jade seal of great cultural and historical importance sat at the top of the 256 lots offered, selling at $378,000, including buyer’s premium.
An outstanding example of Chinese jade carving, the seal’s upper face is gracefully sculpted with a qilong and two smaller qilong among scrolling waves or clouds, likely referring to the Chinese saying “Canlong jiaozi,” which may be translated as “the Eastern [blue] dragon teaching his son(s).” The “Taishang Huangdi Zhi Bao” seal arrived at Freeman’s from a private collection and was presented with an estimate of $300/500,000.
Its historical importance derives from the Qianlong emperor of China — “Emperor Emeritus” — who made a vow to voluntarily abdicate the throne to his heir in 1795 if he was blessed with a reign of 60 years. Remarkably, he reached this significant milestone, fulfilled his vow and designated his 15th son, Prince Jia, as his successor. Post-retirement, “Emperor Emeritus” commissioned approximately 20 “Taishang Huangdi” seals, which were executed in a variety of sizes, forms and materials. The jade seal sold at Freeman’s is from this select group, consigned by descendants of the original collector. Its carving and polish are exceedingly fine, as would be expected of a work commissioned by the Qianlong emperor, a connoisseur of jades.
Ben Farina, head of Asian arts at Freeman’s, commented “We had a number of wonderful pieces from various regional collections, and we’ve greatly enjoyed working with the consignors to bring this material to auction.”
The sale witnessed competitive bidding between international buyers, which pushed sale prices far higher than their estimates. A full review will follow.
July 6, 2022
July 6, 2022
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