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Chinese Seal From Forbidden City Fetches $5.4 Million

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Kate Moss
A 2006 study of Kate Moss by the Norwegian fashion photographer Solve Sundsbo was among 11 lots being sold to benefit a children's charity, the NSPCC, at a Bonhams auction of photographs in London on May 17. It sold for 5,250 pounds. Source: Bonhams via Bloomberg

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- An 18th-century Chinese green jade seal associated with the Qianlong Emperor sold today at an auction in London for 3.4 million pounds ($5.4 million).

Of double-gourd form carved with three dragons, the seal had been housed in the Hall of the Three Rarities (San Xi Tang) at the Forbidden City, Beijing, auction house Bonhams said. It had been offered by a private European collector with an estimate of 1 million pounds to 1.5 million pounds. The buyer, making telephone bids, was underbid in the room by Taiwan-based dealer Arts of Chen.

Imperial associations also boosted demand for an elaborate 18th-century cloisonne enamel-and-gilt bronze incense burner and stand. Described as having been commissioned for use by the Qianlong Emperor, it climbed to 780,450 pounds against an estimate of 80,000 pounds to 120,000 pounds, the second highest price of the sale.

Elsewhere, bidding was selective. Asian bidders have become more discriminating at Western auctions and here 41 percent of the 399 offered lots were rejected. The sale raised 12 million pounds with fees, against an upper estimate of 12.7 million pounds, based on hammer prices.

Chinese Imperial objects with European provenances have been contested to record levels by Asian bidders in recent years. Slow and non-payment has been an issue at some auctions.

The Toulouse auctioneer Chassaing-Marambat sold an 18th-century white jade seal associated with the Qianlong Emperor for 3.8 million euros with fees on March 31. A year earlier, it had been bid to 12.4 million euros by an unidentified Chinese client who paid only 2.2 million euros of the auction price.

Moss Mermaid

During an afternoon auction devoted to photographs, Bonhams achieved 5,250 pounds for an image of Kate Moss as a 21st-century mermaid to benefit the U.K. children’s charity, the NSPCC.

The Norwegian fashion photographer Solve Sundsbo’s later-printed image of the British model in 2006, standing half-naked and cross-legged in a pair of gold hipster pants, was among 11 portraits being offered to benefit the organization. From an edition of 10, it had been valued at 3,000 pounds to 4,000 pounds.

The group also included a portrait of Florence Welch, the lead singer of Florence + the Machine, and a portrait of Damien Hirst by David Bailey.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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