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Rediscovered Chinese seal surfaces at auction in southwestern France

The soapstone seal is believed to be one of two used personally by Emperor Qianlong and was discovered in a French collection

Anna Sansom

Personal seal belonging to the Emperor Qianlong (est €500,000-€600,000), to be auctioned 23 September at Ivoire-Toulouse Primardeco Courtesy of Ivoire-Toulouse Primardeco

A recently rediscovered Chinese soapstone seal, believed to have belonged to the Chinese Emperor Qianlong(1736-1795), will be auctioned in Toulouse, France, on 23 September 2017.

Listed in the Qing dynasty's collection of seals, it is believed to be one of only two that belonged to Emperor Qianlong, a painter, poet and famed patron of the arts who used it to stamp his manuscripts, poems and paintings.

The small beige seal, with a mountain that evokes a shan shui landscape carved on its top (est €500,000 to €600,000), has been in the same family of French army officers for five generations. The family, which does not own other Asian artworks, contacted Jérôme de Colonges of local auctioneers Ivoire-Toulouse Primardeco in June to have an inventory made of their possessions and had not the faintest idea what the object was.

“I was stupefied and moved because I immediately realised that it was an important piece, which was confirmed by the research of Pierre Ansas, the expert to whom I showed it afterwards,” says Colonges. Last December, an intricately carved imperial jade seal estimated at €800,000 to €1m sold for €21m at Drouot in Paris.