This rare and monumental standing cup and cover is an exceptional example of Chinese export silver that was made mostly in China’s south for export around the world.
It stands on a large ring foot, the foot being tiered and chased with a tier of acanthus leaves and then a tier of finely-rendered sea creatures including fish, lobsters, and helmet shell snails, all against a finely tooled ground. A flattened sphere delicately chased with peonies and leaves is above this. Next comes a platform on which three silver, horned dragons rear up on their front claws, with their tails entwined. The tails support the bowl which is chased all over with over with dozens of officials, soldiers, dancers and courtly officials as well as an emperor figure amid bamboo groves and open pavilions. One figure holds aloft a flag with a single Chinese character which read ’emperor’. A blank armorial cartouche is on one side of the bowl.
The bowl is decorated on the sides also by a large pair of winged dragon handles. These are spectacularly rendered, with their small wings open, ready for take-off.
The lid fits tightly into the bowl. The lid is domed and terminates with a finely-cast dragon’s head with its mouth agape and its tongue protruding. The first tier of the cover is chased with chrysanthemum scrolls, and the second tier is decorated with the dragon’s body.
The side of the foot rim is stamped with a single intaglio mark that reads ‘Wang Hing 9o’ and then in Chinese, the characters for ‘Da Ji’ which translates as ‘Big Prosperity’. Wang Hing was a firm that was active in Canton and Hong Kong in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth century. Its name often appears on Chinese export silver. It most probably had one or several workshops but also bought in piece work items from itinerant or independent silversmiths which it then stamped with its own mark.
Christie’s London recently had a related Chinese export silver vase.
The example here is in excellent condition. The features are sharp and have not been dulled by excessive polishing. It is a superb example of Chinese export silver.
Chan, D.P.L., Chinese Export Silver: The Chan Collection, published in conjunction with the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.
Kernan, J.D., The Chait Collection of Chinese Export Silver, Ralph M. Chait Galleries, 1985.
Forbes, H.A.C. et al, Chinese Export Silver 1785-1885, Museum of the American China Trade, 1975.
Marlowe, A.J., Chinese Export Silver, John Sparks, 1990.