Rare Vase from 1893 World’s Fair Was Displayed in Restaurant for Decades

Cool.

Of three monumental World’s Fair cloisonne pieces — two vases and a large incense burner that resembles a vase — two sit in museums. The third, the one up for auction, depicting a dragon meant to represent China, was thought to be lost, but also was on display, albeit as part of Spenger’s decor.

“It was on display at Spenger’s restaurant in Berkeley all these years,” said Torres, who worked with the Spenger family to bring the vase up for auction Feb. 17. “The three vases at the fair, sent to represent Japan, are said to be the best vases ever produced in Japan.”

The wooden bases that each of the pieces rests on are said to have taken one craftsman four years to carve, Torres said.

“The vases were approved by the emperor himself before being sent to the fair,” he added.

Torres said experts believed the vase had been lost or destroyed, but his research showed that San Francisco Chronicle owner M.H. DeYoung, brought one of the vases west for an 1894 mid-winter fair in Golden Gate Park after the Columbian Exposition.