The 21in (53cm) high figure with its large head, hunched shoulders and flexed legs is characteristic for the Biwat people. Neighbouring tribes also called them mundugumor, a name that became widely known in the 1930s after a visit by the American anthropologist Margaret Read. Freestanding figures are relatively uncommon but they are closely related to the so-called flute stoppers (wusear) which were central to the cult ceremonies of the mundugumor.
The figure once belonged to the legendary dealer and collector Mark Lissauer, who died in 2016. In 1948, he had started collecting and over the decades amassed an immense collection; many pieces now belong to major museums around the world.
At the sale of tribal art held in Brussels by Cologne auction house Lempertz (25% buyer’s premium) on September 2, an international dealer secured the figure for €48,000 (£41,025), just below the lower guide.