An elderly couple sold an African mask for $157. Then it sold for millions and now they want to get paid. | spcilvly


An elderly couple in France has accused an antiques dealer of scamming them out of a seven-figure payment after learning that the African mask they sold him made 4.2 million euros ($4.4 million) at auction. According The world, The couple, who were the first to announce the news, have launched a lawsuit against the merchant, asking an appeals court in Nîmes to determine what compensation they are owed.

The mask was discovered while the couple was cleaning their property in preparation for a garage sale. The mask, however, was reserved for the local antique dealer, who agreed to buy it for 150 euros (about $157) in September 2021. Months later they read in the newspaper that the mask had sold for millions at an auction house in Montpellier . According to the listing, it was a traditional Gabonese fang mask used in weddings, funerals and other rituals. The mask, a rare sight outside Gabon, with fewer than a dozen in museums around the world, was brought to France by her husband’s grandfather, who was a colonial governor in Africa.

More from Robb Report

The lawsuit is ongoing, but they have won a small victory: the appeals court decided on June 28 that their lawsuit “appears to be well founded in principle” and ordered the auction proceeds frozen until the conclusion of the case. . His argument is based on the belief that the dealer hid his suspicions about the artifact’s true value. Instead of displaying the mask in his shop, he contacted three auction houses in France to obtain an estimate of its monetary value. The last one he contacted was a specialist in African artifacts, who had the mask analyzed using carbon-14 dating and mass spectrometry. Tests dated the mask to the 19th century and an expert ethnologist, after taking a look at it, said it was used by the Ngil, a secret male society within the Fang people that oversaw judicial affairs.

The auction house put the mask up for sale with an estimate of between 300,000 and 400,000 euros; It sold in March 2022 for more than triple the high estimate.

Faced with possible legal proceedings, the antique dealer initially offered the couple 300,000 euros (about $315,000) as compensation, but the court documents examined by Artnet News They reveal that the offer was rejected due to opposition from the couple’s children. A judicial court in Alès granted them a preventive embargo on the proceeds of the sale, which took place in May 2022. This measure was revoked by a lower court and the funds were returned to the merchant.

The case is being examined by a higher court in Nîmes.

Report the best of Robb

Subscribe to the Robb Report newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *