The Rasmussen-de Havenon Dogon mask will auction at Christie’s in May.
The mask, which dates to the 1700s, is among the finest examples of African art remaining on the private market.
The Dogon are a tribal people from Mali, famed for the extraordinary quality of their religious sculptures – which are usually kept hidden from public view.
The Dogon people believe that they are born with a male and female soul
This mask shows male and female figures, with the female depicted kneeling on the male’s head.
This is in reference to Dogon belief that the gods (celestial figures known as the nommo) have both a male and female soul.
The mask was acquired by French dealer Rene Rasmussen from Africa in the 1950s. It’s also named for Gaston de-Havenon, who bought it from Rasmussen.
It features a rich patina that indicates centuries of ritual use.
It’s expected to sell for around $2.6m-3.7m.
Department head Susan Kloman of Christie’s said: “This is an incredibly exciting moment for the art market and Paris to witness the return of this iconic masterpiece.
“This archaic mask in a unique style by a master sculptor of the 18th century Dogon, who could rival his Western contemporaries Bernini or later Rodin in originality and quiet power.
“It is an indelible work appearing in all of the major references on African art. Our offering this April represents only the second time in a century the work has been available at auction”.
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