14-11-19-2167NE01A Fang Bieri.jpg
The Fang bieri guardian palmwood figure from Gabon in West Africa which sold for £88,000 at Netherhampton Salerooms in Salisbury.

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The ritual object was found gathering dust on top of a cupboard by the auction house's fine art expert, Philip Rance, during a routine valuation of a country house in North Wiltshire. Its value was unknown to the vendor, a descendant of the Barons Romilly, although she believed the piece had entered the family prior to 1900.

Modestly estimated at £300-500 but accurately catalogued as a tribal guardian figure from Western Africa, it attracted a great deal of interest at the sale on November 7 from the internet and on the phone, ultimately selling via the latter.

The buyer is believed to be a private collector.

Big prices for Fang sculpture were also apparent in New York last week at the November 11 sale of the African Art collection of Myron Kunin. A Fang-Betsi reliquary head from Gabon sold for $3.1m (£2m).

The sale also saw a record for any piece of African art at auction - $10.6m (£6.9m) for a Senufo female statue from the Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso, eclipsing the previous high of €5m (£3.42m) paid for a late 19th century kaolin-painted Ngil mask at Enchères Rive Gauche in June 2006. 

The buyer's premium at Netherhampton Salerooms was 12.5%.