The collections of multi-millionaire recluse Huguette Clark

Last week heiress Huguette Clark died at the ripe old age of 104. Her family were not with her - in fact they have seen very little of her over the past few decades. Clark had spent nearly two decades of her life in hospitals, though for much of that time she was not thought to be seriously ill.

Clark had inherited her fortune from ruthless copper magnate William Clark. The senior Clark had at least two dubious distinctions: Firstly he was indirectly responsible for the 17th amendment to the US Constitution which required direct elections to the Senate following his moves to buy his way in.

Secondly, he was condemned in print by Mark Twain, who described him as being "…as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag". Huguette was never described in those terms.

One of the few people who knew her well for a while was Barabara Dolan who hid in her garden as a child, and described her as 'very warm, very giving'. Clark tried to do her part to combat the Great Depression by tearing down one of her great mansions just to employ people to build it up again.

Like many other heirs of great tycoons however, (such as Colonel E H F Green, son of Hetty 'the Witch of Wall Street' Green) Huguette Clark was fascinated by collectibles.

She owned four Stradivari violins, including La Pucelle (The Virgin), one of the most sought-after violins, made in 1709 and given to her by her mother. It was later sold for $6m. She also possessed an 1882 Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting entitled In the Roses.

Clark was a talented artist herself, and seven of her paintings were exhibited in Washington DC.

Her greatest love however was dolls, especially French dolls, and she had her lawyer bid on them at auction. Indeed an apartment was set aside for them. Her collection became so extensive that she employed people to look after them, including ironing their clothes.

Bru French fashion doll
An example of a valuable Bru French fashion doll

She also gave a custom-designed dollhouse worth more than $10,000 for her lawyer Bock's then-6-year-old granddaughter. According to him, it was not unusual for her to give lavish doll-related gifts to the families of her staff.

Some legal wrangling is expected over the division of Huguette Clark's fortune with her family at odds with her lawyer. Doll collectors and those who regard them as alternative investments will be waiting with baited breath.


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