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Achill treasure haul up for auction

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UP FOR GRABSAn early 20th century Chinese silver cocktail shaker which will go on auction in London this Friday.

Precious Chinese silver lay in a trunk on the island since World War II

Anton McNulty

A COLLECTION of Chinese silver stored in a trunk in a house on Achill Island since the end of World War II will go on auction in London this Friday.
The 24 items of Chinese silver were the property of Achill-born John Sheridan, who made his fortune as a wine merchant after moving to Shanghai in China at the start of the 20th century.
The Sheridans moved to Achill following the establishment of the Achill Mission by Rev Edward Nangle, and John was born in 1881. In 1903, he moved to Shanghai, which at the time was known as the ‘Paris of the East’.
While there, he met and married Anna Dobershansky, the daughter of a Russian nobleman and they went on to enjoy a prosperous life with their four children.
John built a house on Achill Island in preparation for returning to Ireland, but he died during World War II. 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 survived the camp, and soon after her release she travelled to Achill. With her she broght ‘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 until recently. Now they have been put up for sale by their grandchildren.

Dragons and deities
The silver comes for sale at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers in London this Friday as part of the Asian Art Auction. Among the 24 items are two cocktail shakers. According to the auctioneer, they are 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. They are estimated at £400 to £600 Sterling each.
Also marked for Zee Wo is a half-fluted kettle on a bamboo-shaped stand, estimated to be worth £600 to £800.
Another item, a silver statue of the rotund deity Budai marked ‘Shang Fengxiang, Yuji’ – one of the best makers from Tientsin city.
“Based in a city that counted lots of sports clubs and institutions, the [Shang Fengxiang, Yuji] firm was renowned for its silver trophies but also made many of these fine quality solid silver models of immortals,” states Sworders in its online catalog. The 15cm-high silver model of Budai depicts the deity seated holding a precious pearl in his left hand and a cloth sack in his right, and the estimate is £800 to £1,200.
More information on the auction is available at www.sworder.co.uk.