Millions-dollar rare African mask case lost by an elderly French couple

Millions-dollar rare African mask case lost by an elderly French couple

Millions-dollar rare African mask case lost by an elderly French couple

A second-hand merchant has prevailed in a fight to retain the proceeds of the sale of a rare African mask that he discovered in the attic of an elderly French couple. The mask was valued at €4.2 million (£3.6 million; $4.6 million).

After being brought in to assist the couple in cleaning up their attic, the couple decided to sell him the mask for the price of €150 (£129; $165). The couple filed a lawsuit, claiming that they had been improperly informed about the value of the object. The court, however, was not of the same opinion and stated that they had failed to recognise the genuine value of the artwork.

The Ngil mask, which is extremely rare and was crafted by the Fang people of Gabon, is thought to be one of just approximately ten in existence worldwide.

Individuals who were Ngil covert organisation members would have been the ones to donning the item. Historians assert that the individuals traversed the communities in pursuit of troublemakers, including those who were suspected of sorcery.

The nineteenth-century wooden disguise was most likely acquired “under unknown circumstances” by the plaintiff’s grandfather, French colonial governor René-Victor Edward Maurice Fournier, around 1917.

It was held by the family until it was acquired by the dealer, at which juncture it was sold. It was subsequently transferred at auction to an unidentified purchaser.

The couple initiated legal proceedings against the dealer, alleging that the dealer made false representations regarding the true value of the mask, with the intention of securing a portion of the proceeds generated from the sale.

The dealer refuted any awareness of the mask’s exorbitant price and claimed that his offer of €300,000—the mask’s initial valuation—demonstrated to the couple his willingness to be benevolent.

His attorney asserted that the duo had failed to conduct sufficient research to ascertain the item’s true value prior to selling it. “Before giving it up, you should be a little more interested if you have such an object in your household,” Patricia Pijot told French media in an interview.

The judge rendered a verdict in favour of the dealer, concluding that the involved parties failed to apply a reasonable degree of diligence in the assessment of the mask’s “historical and artistic” worth. As a result of the litigation that the couple initiated, the offer was subsequently withdrawn.

Attorney for the couple Frédéric Mansat Jaffré stated that the judge’s action in this matter had set a precedent. At this juncture, it is imperative that either you or I seek the advice of an expert before proceeding with further consultations.

In a distinct matter, Gabon had petitioned for a halt to the mask’s sale, asserting that it was rightfully the country’s possession. The court, however, rejected this line of reasoning.

The disguise was acquired by Fournier during a period when the West African nation was still a French territory. In the past, French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed support for the repatriation of African artwork. He stated in 2017 that he was incapable of recognising the fact that France harbours a substantial portion of the cultural heritage of several African nations.