Chinese Export Silver from the Paris of the East

Chinese Export Silver from the Paris of the East

A collection of Chinese silver assembled by a family who lived in Shanghai in the early 20th century comes for sale at Sworders in November. The group of typical ‘export’ wares owned by the vendor’s grandparents who lived in ‘the Paris of the East’ had been stored in a trunk since the end of The Second World War.

19 October 2021

John James Sheridan (1881-1931) was born on Achill Island off the west coast of Co Mayo, Ireland in 1881, the son of a farmer. The house he built on Achill in preparation for his return from the Far East is still in the family. 

He moved to Shanghai c.1903-04, working as a wine merchant, and there met and married Anna Dobershansky (1894-1964), the daughter of a Russian noblemen. The couple married in 1922 and enjoyed a prosperous life together with four children but John died in 1936 and, during the Second World War, Anna was incarcerated in the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Centre in Shanghai - the infamous Japanese internment camp that inspired the film ‘Empire of the Sun’.


Anna Dobershansky wedding

The wedding of John James Sheridan (1881-1931) and Anna Dobershansky (1894-1964) in 1922


Anna survived the camp and soon after her release, travelled to Achill together with three ornately carved hardwood trunks containing the family possessions. Aside from a few items that were dispersed among family members, the contents of the trunks have remained intact. 


Chinese export silver from The Paris of the East

The collection of silver, 24 items in total, has been entered for sale in the November 5 Asian Art auction


From the collection of 24 items to be offered for sale in Sworders' November 5 Asian Art Auction, there are two cocktail shakers - synonymous with the life of Westerners in early 20th century Shanghai. One, embossed with Taoist dragons amidst bamboo, is marked for the silversmith Tu Mao Xing of Jinjiang in Jiangxi province. Another piece also embossed with a dragon within a circular cartouche, is marked for Zee Wo, a silver retailer located in Shanghai at 121 and 370 Henan Road. They are estimated at £400-600 each.


Zee Wo Cocktail Shaker

Lot 160 | Asian Art, Friday 5 November

A large Chinese export silver cocktail shaker,
early 20th century, of tapering form, embossed with a dragon and a circular vacant cartouche on a matt ground, pull-off cover, stamp marked 'ZEE WO' and 'En',
26.2cm high, 459.4g (3)

£400 - £600


Also marked for Zee Wo is a half fluted kettle on a bamboo-shaped stand (estimate £600-800), while a silver statue of the rotund deity Budai marked for cartouche, one of the best makers from Tientsin (both pictured above). Based in a city that counted lots of sports clubs and institutions, the firm was renowned for its silver trophies but also made many of these fine quality solid silver models of immortals. This 15cm high silver model of Budai depicts him seated holding a precious pearl in his left hand and a sack in his right. The estimate is £800-1200.


Anna Dobershansky (1894-1964) driving the family car in Shanghai



Sworders welcomes consignments of Chinese Export Silver to specialist sales of Asian Art, held twice a year. To discuss a valuation, please contact - 


Yexue Li | 01279 817778






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