• On Saturday, the Montpellier auction house will auction an African mask, estimated between 400,000 and 500,000 euros.

    But it could be sold much more expensive.

  • This Fang mask, which had a legal role, was discovered in an attic, not far from Montpellier, where it has not moved since the 1920s.

  • This is, for specialists, a major discovery for the history of art.

“So that is extraordinary!

In the exhibition hall of the Montpellier auction house (Hérault), the small wrinkled eyes and the large beard of this African mask captivate visitors.

" Incredible !

exclaims an art dealer.

Saturday morning, this centenary object will be auctioned, during a prestigious sale of which it will be the figurehead.

It is estimated between 400,000 and 500,000 euros.

But it could go much more expensive still.

"In view of the national and international amateurs who are interested in it, we can hope for a certain enthusiasm", rejoices Bertrand de Latour, auctioneer at the Montpellier auction house, which is awash in phone calls, since the announcement of this exceptional sale.

For nearly a hundred years, this Fang mask, from the traditional art of Gabon, slept in an attic, in a house, not far from Montpellier.

“It was kept with the military belongings of the grandfather, it never moved”, confides Bertrand de Latour.

"He was meant to scare people"

Thanks to the support of experts in ancient African arts, the auctioneers of the Montpellier auction house were able to retrace the history of this long wooden mask which, despite the weight of the years, is in amazing condition. : it was carved at the end of the 19th century, then acquired in Gabon between 1917 and 1918 and brought back by Governor René-Victor Edward Maurice Fournier, in the family home, in the 1920s.

"This mask had a role of justice, it was intended to scare people", who had committed abuses, notes Bertrand de Latour.

"Hence his pale complexion", due to the use of kaolin, a white rock.

And they are rare.

First “because there were few”, only one for several villages.

And “because this mask was linked to the person who embodied this power.

So he disappeared with this person, ”he continues.

This mask, of which only about ten copies are known to exist in the world, is of great importance, "in the history of the art of Atlantic equatorial Africa, but also in the history of art in short”, notes Bernard Dulon, expert in ancient African arts and gallery owner in Paris.

"It is an exceptional work, particularly rare, worthy of the most prestigious collections", assures Louis Perrois, researcher and ethnologist, specialist in ancient cultures of Africa.

Many artists in the 20th century were inspired by it.

Especially Modigliani or Picasso.

In 2006, one of them flew for 5.750 million euros, at the Drouot hotel in Paris.


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  • Montpellier

  • Occitania

  • Languedoc Roussillon

  • Art

  • Auction

  • Africa

  • Gabon

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