'Fascinating' death mask modelled on Stalin's face expected to smash valuation at Suffolk auction
PUBLISHED: 13:28 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:46 02 October 2018
A death mask modelled on the face of Joseph Stalin could fetch up to 10 times its valuation at auction next week.
The unusual piece, which will go under the hammer at Lockdales in Martlesham Heath next Thursday and Friday, is recognisable as the former Soviet dictator due to its trademark heavy moustache and swept back hair.
It was made shortly after he died of a brain haemorrhage in March 1953 at the age of 74.
Alongside the mask are accompanying bronze casts of Stalin’s hands, one of which is withered as a consequence of a horse-riding accident he suffered when he was young.
Lockdales’ managing director Daniel Daley, who discovered the artefact at a valuation show, said: “This is a really fascinating and historic item and it is believed that just 12 casts were made of Stalin’s head.
“We’ve had a huge amount of interest from around the world, so it could climb well above our estimate.
“Earlier this year, a similar Stalin death mask sold for over 10 times its estimate to make thousands.”
Experts believe that because the similar mask fetched an impressive £13,500, the £3,000-£5,000 valuation at next week’s Suffolk auction could be smashed when punters start bidding.
The item, sold in Kent, was bought by a telephone bidder on behalf of an overseas client back in August.
Richard Ginger, who works at Suffolk Auction House, said of the mask being flogged at Lockdales: “I think it is an interesting piece because it’s very rare.
“It is also quite an eerie and morbid piece and because Stalin was so important in history and had such a reputation it draws interest from buyers.
“Also, because of its Russian heritage we have interest from there as well as a few other countries.”
The model of the dictator, who was said to be responsible for an estimated 20million deaths during his 30-year reign of the Soviet Union, is cast in bronze, measuring 31 x 22cm in diameter.
It comes with an bronze plaque which carries the inscription ‘Sztalin-Vasmu, 1851 November 2, Elso Ontesebol’.
The item would have been made within hours of Stalin’s death, by taking a plaster cast of his face – before creating a mold filled with molten bronze and left to set.
Such masks were not uncommon in Russia during the mid 1900s, and were used as mementos of the dead by the wealthy and the powerful.