This sculpture was photographed and labeled "Marquesan Idole" by Jules Agostini (French, 1859-1930) in November 1894, in the Marquesas Islands, in Nuku Hiva (Paris, musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Agostini's photo albums). Sent to work for the French State in Oceania, Agostini stopped in the Marquesas Islands in late November 1894 just before arriving in Tahiti, where he stayed until 1898.
Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903), who first sojourned in Oceania between 1891 and 1893, left France again in 1895, arriving in Tahiti in September of that year. The artist knew this sculpture from two photographs (a front view identical to the one in Agostini's photo album and a three-quarter view), which he pasted in his album Noa Noa (Paris, musée d'Orsay). He probably acquired these photos from Agostini: the two men are documented to have first met in Tahiti in the fall of 1895. Intrigued by this sculpture, Gauguin subsequently used the two photos as a direct source for a 'Head with Horns' he incorporated into three distinct compositions for a woodcut (about 1898-99) and two drawings (about 1900). This explains why the sculpture was once erroneously attributed to Paul Gauguin.
Who made the sculpture is unknown and its journey between the Marquesas Islands where it was photographed in 1894 and Switzerland where it was in a private collection by 1993 has not been documented yet.