Valuable Fang Mask: first owners cannot cancel their sale

The case of a mask with a fang sold for 150 euros to a bazaar and then, thanks to his research, sold at auction for 4.2 million euros has just experienced a new legal episode, on Tuesday, December 19, in Alès (Gard) . Its first owners, Mr. and Mrs. X, who sold it thinking it was worthless, had their request to cancel the transaction rejected.

Their lawyer ME Frédéric Mansat Jaffré invoked the principle that “ error” of the seller results in the invalidity of the contract, if it concerns “substance” subject of this contract (in this case, the value of the subject). The court refuses to follow him. Regarding sellers, they think that “their carelessness and carelessness characterize the inexcusable nature of their error.”

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers When an individual does not know he has a treasure and sells it to a bazaar for 150 euros

Indeed, “there was a clear asymmetry of information in favor of sellers and not buyers regarding the basic characteristics of the mask, especially its authenticity and provenance”. The sellers knew it was brought from Africa by their ancestor, a colonial governor in the early 20th century.E century. Yet the court blames “They didn’t take any steps to get it appraised before the sale, whereas today there are several options to get your property appraised for free.”

Flea market and truffles

This “the lack of diligence on the part of the sellers in assessing the true value of the property being sold is contrasted with those made by the buyer after the sale”. In fact, the other while he is performing the activitye “itinerant and sedentary furniture sales and bazaar flea markets; sale of truffles”, and that he does not have “no specific knowledge of African art”asked for three estimates.

At the Drouot Estimates auction house (“between 100 and 120 euros”), in FauveParis (“between 400 and 600 euros”) and at the auction house in Montpellier, “Access that is not reserved for professionals”. That’s when “advanced research” was done – “The Carbon-14 Method Coupled with Mass Spectrometry”Then “expertise of an ethnologist”. They made it possible to date and estimate the object “between 300,000 and 400,000 euros”.

As a result, the court orders the release of the preliminary attachment that was placed on the second-hand dealer’s bank accounts in order to block the proceeds of the resale (or at least what is left of them). But, perhaps out of caution, he “refuses provisional execution” of this decision, which could therefore become effective only after the end of the appeal procedure that X can initiate.

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