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Seven of the top ten works at Christie’s biannual Tribal Art auction on May 29 were knocked down to the French and Belgium trade and private buyers in a 262-lot sale that saw a respectable 70 per cent take-up by lot.

This striking and moody wooden Bambara female figure, 321/2in (83cm) high, shown here, cut a powerful image and generated a third of the overall total. Privately consigned from a Dutch vendor, she was seated on a curved stool with her hands on her breasts and her body adorned with incised bands of zigzags.

When these dignified figures first appeared in Western collections in the 1950s, they were referred to as ‘Queens’ but little is really known about their significance.

Kate Ezra, author of A Human Ideal in African Art. Bamana Figurative Sculpture, suggests: “They glorify the qualities that propel an individual to greatness.” It was brought by a French dealer at NG380,000 (£110,465).