French couple unsuccessful in court battle regarding valuable African mask worth millions.

A French couple in their 80s sold an African mask, which they believed was of little value, for €150 to a secondhand goods dealer in September 2021. However, in March 2022, the mask was sold at an auction in Montpellier for €4.2m to an unidentified buyer. The couple attempted to cancel the sale, claiming an “authentication error”, but their request was rejected in court. The court ruled that the couple’s negligence in not getting the mask valued before selling it was inexcusable, and they were not owed any money. The court also determined that the dealer, who was not an expert in African art, did not cheat the couple. The government of Gabon also failed in their attempt to have the sale cancelled and the mask returned. Members of the Gabon community protested the auction, stating that the mask should be returned to Gabon.

The couple’s lawyer stated that they were considering an appeal following the court’s decision.

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