Four-character Seal: "Tianfu dianbao"
(Seal of the Palace of Celestial Bliss)
Qing Dynasty, reign of Qianlong
H: 9.8 cm, base: 10.5 cm x 10.5 cm
Paris, National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet
The use of seals under the Qing no doubt achieved its pinnacle during Qianlong's reign. The Emperor, a great art lover and avid collector, consistently surrounded himself with only the finest objects made in the imperial workshops. This applied also in the case of his seals (n°55) as well as the administrative seals which the workshops sculpted in accordance with well-defined criteria.
Such is the case with this green jade seal bearing an inscription which reads, in four large forcefully drawn sigillate characters,: "Tianfu dianbao", "Seal of the Palace of Celestial Bliss".
Although the palace in question remains unidentified, the execution and style of the seal belong to the 18th century. There are many known examples of seals featuring a square, relatively thick base surmounted by a large dragon standing firmly on clawed paws.
The ingenuity of the sculptor consisted in extracting a minimum volume from the initial block of jade. The imperial seals displayed finer workmanship, but the massive, solid aspect of the piece also illustrates the taste for archaism found in many 18th century objets d'art, and is quite appropriate to a type of object, the form and use of which date back to the very origins of ancient Chinese civilisation.
A string could be attached through the orifice beneath. The casket in which this seal was kept has not been conserved.