Humanities Professors Birt, Nathan Consult on Historic Japanese Vase Found at Berkeley Restaurant

Thursday, January 10, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- One of the SF State academics who got a look at the vase, Dr. Rodger Birt, had already been searching for the vase locally when another historian told him in 2018 that he believed it might be somewhere in the Bay Area. Dr. Birt, who is retired but is on the board of the San Francisco Historical Society, was eventually contacted by Torres about Spenger's piece. With Marvin Nathan, another retired academic from SF State, the two went to the Oakland auction house with a 19th-century photograph of the vase in hand.

“You hardly ever see cloisonné vases of this dimension,” Dr. Birt told SFGate. “Walking around it, looking at it, it was easy to verify. Questions are always going to arise, (like) ‘Is this authentic?’ We had with us the photo taken in 1893 when it was in Chicago, and detail by detail it matched, 100 percent. There was no detail that didn't match the photograph.”

Dr. Birt and the historical society reached out to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco about the auctioning of the vase; they are hoping the museum considers bidding.