Sleeper. When an item is sold at auction without the auctioneers having an appreciation of the true nature of the object.
The biggest sleeper of the year might have been sold this week in Liège, Belgium (info). This cross-legged Kongo figure, with the hand supporting the chin, turned up at a small auction but apparently failed to go unnoticed, being sold for € 198.000 (premium included). The original estimate isn’t listed on the website anymore, but I suspect it being a couple of thousand euros. This figure is from the same hand as the paternity figure from the Vérité collection (Paris, 17-18 June 2006, lot 236) and from the same workshop as numerous known other examples. Unfortunately, the right cheek and hand are a bit damaged. It shows that even at the smallest auctions, the time of being the only interested party lays far behind us – this result equals the price one would pay in Paris or New York. In the same sale, a small Songye figure was hammered for € 31.200 (info). In my opinion, both prices are a bit too high and I suspect bidders got carried away since they were so enthusiast about their discovery.
Update: a reader informed the estimate was € 1800-2000.
Update II: another reader writes:
The piece might have been a sleeper, the Brussels dealers who were competing for it were definitely very awake !