Rare African mask at centre of fierce multimillion-dollar legal battle
A couple was unaware of the mask’s market value
(Web Desk) - When an elderly couple held a garage sale after selling their second home in the south of France, little did they know they would become embroiled in a legal battle with millions of euros at stake.
The 88-year-old and his 81-year-old wife, identified by their initials in court documents but confirmed to CNN as Mr and Mrs Fournier by their lawyer, listed for sale an ancient African mask, which had been inherited from Mr. Fournier’s grandfather.
The grandfather, René-Victor Edward Maurice Fournier, had served as a colonial governor in Central Africa during the early 20th century, when significant parts of the continent were under French colonial rule.
The Fourniers sold their mask in September of 2021 to a second-hand dealer for 150 euros, court documents show.
According to their lawyer, Frédéric Mansat Jaffré, the two were unaware of the mask’s market value and believed the dealer was offering a fair price.
A few months later, their lawyer said they learned through a newspaper article that their old mask was being auctioned off, and that it was worth substantially more than what the dealer paid.
Two days later, it sold for 4.2 million euros, a sale receipt shared with CNN showed, equivalent to more than $4.5 million.
The Fourniers launched a civil case against the dealer which they lost in the fall of 2022 and were ordered to pay court costs.
Now they are appealing the earlier court decision, claiming the dealer failed “in his obligation to provide pre-contractual information” and committed “a breach of consent.”
The couple seeks to annul the sale of the mask and want the auction’s proceeds to be given to them.