A tall wooden snake sculpture is expected to make €1.2m ($1.6m) when it goes under the hammer at Christie's Paris on June 19.
The African Baga serpent, carved from a single length of wood, is reminiscent of valuable examples retained by some of the world's most eminent museums, including the Louvre in Paris and New York's Metropolitan Museum.
The serpent remains a powerful and potent symbol within African culture, evoking, simultaneously, notions of life and death, beginnings and endings. Heavily associated with water, the serpent grew into a totemic animal and can be found in dance and ritual as well as art and sculpture.
The Baga peoples hail from the lowlands of Guinea. Since frequent flooding left vast swathes of the region impenetrable for extended periods, relatively few field studies were undertaken until the 1950s.
Baga wooden snakes began to appear on the market from 1957 onwards, after Helene and Henry Kamer journeyed into Baga country and accrued several traditional artefacts for display in Parisian art galleries.
Exceptional Baga snakes rarely come to market. A comparable example sold for $17,925 at Sotheby's in May 2002.
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