Princess Kate is back after months! Princess Kate is back after months!

The retired couple found the mask in the home of their ancestor, a colonial governor in Gabon.

Six months after selling the mask to a dealer for 150 euros in 2021, they learned its true value after an auction.

At the first hearing on Tuesday, the Gabonese government demanded that the sale be canceled and the mask returned to Gabon.

The story began when a couple in their 80s living in central France asked this merchant to dispose of items from their summer home in the south of France.

They had inherited the house from Rene-Victor Fournier, Gabon's colonial governor in the 20th century.

The wooden mask was found in a closet.

The merchant said he had no way of knowing its true value when he bought it.

When the couple read about the auction in Montpellier in March 2022, they learned that it was a rare 19th-century Ngi mask made by the Fang people of Gabon.

The catalog said it had been "acquired in an unknown way" by Fournier in 1917.

"It is rarer than a Leonardo da Vinci painting," an expert told French media, adding that Fang craftsmen produced only around 10 of these masks.

Auctioned at 300,000 euros, the mask was bought by an anonymous bidder for 4.2 million euros.

The couple then filed a lawsuit to cancel the sale.

The Gabonese government, which intervened in the case, said the mask was stolen from the Gabonese people and should be returned.

In 2020, the French Parliament voted to return artifacts stolen from Senegal and Benin during the colonial period.

There are around 90 thousand African artifacts in France. Most of these are from sub-Saharan African countries

Editor: David Goodman