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SF art auction: an ex-First Lady’s vase sells for $6 million; seller isn’t talking

Friday, December 14, 2012

Intriguing art yarn from the Chronicle’s Leah Garchik: Asian art consultant Richard Littleton paid $5.9 million this week at Bonhams in San Francisco for a three-century-old porcelain Chinese vase for which the auction estimate was for no more than $700,000. Garchik quotes a museum insider as calling the price escalation “insane.”

Turns out the vase (shown in the photo from Bonhams) was part of a collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain that Lou Henry Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover, started collecting in 1900 while the young couple were living in China fresh out of Stanford, long before he became President. The mystery? Some “California institution” to which Mrs. Hoover donated the vase before her death in 1944 landed a windfall from the sale. But they don’t care to reveal themselves and the auction house is bound by contract to keep the secret.


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