20 Aug 2014

Sculpture expected to fetch millions

8:11 am on 20 August 2014

A rare wooden sculpture known as a pou whakairo is to be sold by Sotheby's auction house in France next month and is expected to fetch up to $3.1 million.

The 'Frum Maori Figure' will be auctioned in Paris next month.

The 'Frum Maori Figure' will be auctioned in Paris next month. Photo: Supplied

Sotheby's says the hard-carved wooden pou whakairo is one of only six in existence. Standing at just 39 centimetres tall, the figure has black human hair, inlaid brass eyes and teeth and a moko.

Known as the Frum Maori Figure, Sotheby's believes the free-standing statue depicts a person of high rank and status.

The auction house says the artifact was thought to have been brought back to Scotland by a sea-faring ancestor in the early 1830s before being bought at auction by Canadian multi-millionaire Murray Frum in 1979.

Mr Frum died last year. His art collection going under the hammer also includes a pair of wooden putorino bulge-flutes, estimated to sell for up to $190,000 and a rare hei tiki pendant for up to $160,000.

Te Manu Korihi approached Te Papa for comment on the sale, but a spokesperson said it does not comment on upcoming auctions or other sales, as that may unfairly influence the items' market value.

The auction will be held in Paris on 16 September.