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Chinese imperial seal fetches record price

A seal belonging to 17th-century Chinese emperor Kangxi fetched a record 4.7 million euros (7.2 million dollars) at an auction in the French town of Toulouse. The object was found in the closet of a local family unaware of its value.

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"It is a world record for a seal and a European record for a Chinese object," auctioneer Herve Chassaing told reporters after the sale in the southern French city Toulouse.

The three kilogram (six and a half-pound) beige soapstone seal was one of 130 personal seals used by the 17th-18th century emperor Kangxi. It bears six calligraphic figures along with two dragons in the clouds.

It was bought by an unnamed buyer or buyers from China bidding by telephone.

The starting price for the seal was 300,000 euros. The total price it fetched was 5.6 million euros including sales fees.

Asian art expert Pierre Ansas said the seal was an "important historical object," saying the multi-talented emperor used it to sign "those works of calligraphy and paintings done by him which he held dear."

Ansas said what made the seal especially rare was that it was found in its original ivory-and-lacquer box and the fact that it was unusually large.

Auctioneer Chassaing found the object in the closet of a wealthy Toulouse family who were not aware of either its use or value.

Emperors of China, their families and officials used large seals usually made of jade, although hard woods and precious metals could sometimes be used.

Originally square in shape, they were changed to a rectangular form during the Song Dynasty, but reverted to square during the time of the Qings.

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