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The cream-colored ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Bacara was packed Saturday morning, January 11, with dozens of doll buyers from all over the world eager to bid on the $2 million collection left by the late Huguette Clark, Santa Barbara’s most famous heiress. It didn’t take long for the day’s priciest doll to get scooped up — a two-foot-tall porcelain “Bebe Jumeau” made in France in 1892. The auctioneer said she was extremely rare and in superb “un-played with” condition, wearing her original rose silk dress and matching bonnet. The bidding war was fierce. Placards shot up and down with identification numbers on one side and a print of a disembodied doll’s head on the other. By the end, Bebe Jumeau went for $90,000 to light applause.
The proceeds from the auction will go directly to the Bellosguardo Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit tasked with turning Clark’s estate above East Beach into a public arts center. The nonprofit formed in 2014, and Bellosguardo came into its possession in 2017 after a delayed decision by the IRS over gift-tax penalties owed by Clark. According to its latest financial filings, the Foundation manages $84.1 million in assets, including the 23 acres of land on which the 27-room mansion sits, the structure itself, and cash.