The Punu mask is native to the Ogooué River basin in Gabon. The masks, which represent the faces of female ancestors, are only ever carved by Punu men and are worn during funerals and at times, magical rituals to unmask sorcerers.
Behind the diamond-shaped face, the carved hair and white accents there are many stories. The high hairstyle wold suggest that the wearer is wealthy as her hair has not been flattened from carrying cargo on her head. The white represents beauty as well as spirits of the afterlife.
The earliest known Punu mask, which was collected in 1867, is part of the Pitt Rivers Museum collection at the University of Oxford. The most expensive Punu mask sold at Sotheby's, New York, for £335 000. Check out more realised prices for Punu masks here.
This example will be featured in Galileo's sale on 27th April, 2017. Check out the catalogue here.