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A Private Hunt for Timeless Artifacts

In her new book, Objects of Desire, collector Maria Hummer-Tuttle shares her most cherished items, and their unique stories and fascinating provenance

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When you’re invited to one of Maria Hummer-Tuttle’s beautiful homes, you’re not merely entering a place of residence. Instead, you’re stepping into a personal space where many of the objects found are not quite just objects. Each represents something profoundly meaningful and valuable. Some speak of a memorable trip, others of a milestone or a hard-earned lesson. Others are precious mementos of a bygone era.

Maria Hummer-Tuttle. Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna

On one of Hummer-Tuttle’s travels, she bought a centuries-old fossil. While the artifact wasn’t valuable in itself, the words of the elderly man who sold it made a lasting impression on her: “You should always have in your house something that’s more than 1,000 years old because it puts so much in perspective.”

These words carried even more meaning when Hummer-Tuttle found herself having to evacuate her Los Angeles home due to fires in the area. She quickly gathered by the front door the objects she felt were most precious. Among these were old photographs, grandchildren’s drawings, small pieces of art, and other cherished items. The fossil the old man had sold her was among them.


Top left: A snail sits beneath a 1925 brass centrepiece goblet by Wiener Werkstätte artist Josef Hofmann. Hummer-Tuttle discovered the snail while rummaging through a drawer at P.E. Guerin, the oldest decorative hardware manufacturer in the United States. Top right: Fish fossil in stone. Bottom right: A pottery horse tomb figure from the Tang dynasty (618–907 A.D.), standing in front of the painting La Bicocca by Anselm Kiefer. Bottom left: Two terra-cotta female dancer figures from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.). Photos by Miguel Flores-Vianna.

Looking at the pile, Hummer-Tuttle realized that none of the items were essential in the practical sense of the word. They didn’t include a purse, passport, or even a set of clothes. “What lay there was a pile of objects. I found that really interesting at the time, as I was putting everything back,” Hummer-Tuttle says.

The winds eventually changed, and the fires didn’t reach her home, but that hurried exercise of gathering what she deemed important was something she thought about for some time.

Those reflections led her to re-examine the precious items she and her husband have accumulated and brought into their beautiful homes throughout the years. She shares some of them in the pages of Objects of Desire, her recently published coffee table book.

The book Objects of Desire by Maria Hummer-Tuttle, published by Vendome Press.

Priceless treasures

Hummer-Tuttle has been a long-time patron of the arts. A former lawyer, she has chaired the Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust and continues to serve on the boards of several charitable and civic organizations.

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 117

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