The 18th century carved mask is by a master sculptor of the Dogon peoples in what is now Mali and was formerly a French west African colony.
The richly patinated ritual object, which would have been worn at Dogon ceremonies and kept stored away in a cave for protection, depicts a woman kneeling astride a man’s head and represents the primordial couple.
It was discovered in Africa in the 1950s and through a network of African dealers found its way to Paris, where it was acquired by the art dealer René Rasmussen.
He sold it to his friend, the businessman and art collector Gaston de Havenon, who assembled a major collection of tribal art of which this was a centrepiece.
When de Havenon’s collection was sold after this death at a landmark auction at Drouot in 1994 this mask was acquired by an American collector, whose family have consigned it for sale. The estimate is €2.5m-3.5m.