The Dogon people live in Mali, West Africa and are known for their spectacular masks, woodwork and architecture. The piece coming up for auction in The Curator's Eye sale is a figure which exhibits cubist features. Circa 1700-1800, the figure features elongated arms and alignment of head, arms, cubed hands, and legs.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 14.28.40 Majestic Ancient Dogon Shrine Figure, Published with Fine Provenance Estimate: £46 000- £91 000

The level of abstraction illustrated in this superb shrine figure is often referenced when discussing the origins of modern abstract art movements such as cubism and expressionism.

In addition to the superb aesethic and artistry of the figure, the provenance and history of the piece add to its very high value and desirability. The figure was owned and sold by top Dogon expert Hélène Leloup (France), author of Dogon Statuary and other important Dogon works, to the Hiroshi Ogawa collection (Japan), the most important African art collection in Japanese history.

The figure has been published in a singular photo in The Poetry of Form, African Art in Japanese Collections. Functionally, the figure is thought to have a vital role in the Dogon's practice of ancestor commemoration and religious belief. The Dogon have historically applied libations and blessings to figures in the context of a cave or a shrine setting; the figure has a tiny oily residue on the rear of the neck, indicative that it likely was at one time saturated with oils and still "sweats" when heated. The veneration of the figure has been thought to lead to health, fertility of land and humans, and protection. The application of libations is thought to serve as an important part of this veneration. This is a truly beautiful figure, of a level of quality that few other figures of its type can match and even fewer can exceed.

Check out the full catalogue on Barnebys here.