A unique Fang Mabea statue produced in Cameroon in the early 19th century is set to become one of the most valuable pieces of ethnographic art ever sold when it comes up for auction at Sotheby's Paris on June 18.
The lot was previously owned by Felix Feneon (1861-1944) and Jacques Kerchache (1942-2001), two hugely important collectors and critics who fought for greater recognition for the art of Africa in Europe, most notably in Feneon's passionate 1920 essay "Investigation of Art from Distant Lands - Will they Ever be Admitted to the Louvre?"
It's importance to the canon of Fang art is indisputable, both in terms of the skill involved in its carving and the inclusion of motifs rarely seen in art from the region.
It is also the only remaining Fang statue on the open market.
The piece is valued at $3.4m-4.8m. Currently the most valuable piece of African art is a Fang Ngil mask produced in the late 19th century, which sold for a record $6.3m at Verite in Paris in 2006.
A mask produced by the Yaure people of the Ivory Coast is also likely to prove popular with collectors, with an estimate of $482,682-620,591.
It is one of a set of seven, known as the Lo ensemble, which were worn specifically during the burial of old men in order to transform them into ancestral spirits.
Women were not permitted to lay eyes on the masks and would be forced to hide during the ceremony.
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