Stalin death mask – £11,000 at Lockdales.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

One was a bronze death mask of Stalin consigned to the October 10-11 sale by a vendor living in a formerly Communist East European country.

Only 12 such masks are believed to have been cast from the plaster mask made at the time of the dictator’s death in March 1953, but the example at the Martlesham Heath rooms was the second to appear in English auctions in the past 10 weeks.

A virtually identical set, complete with casts of Stalin’s hands, one showing evidence of his boyhood riding accident, made £13,500 at Canterbury Auction Galleries on August 1 (ATG No 2356). It seems possible that news of this triggered the Suffolk offering which, pitched at £3000- 5000, sold to a Continental bidder at £11,000.

The other Russian star was a solid gold Fabergé table box with the maker’s stamp for Henrik Wigstrom, head workmaster at the St Petersburg factory from 1903-18.

More austere than work one usually associates with Fabergé, the 2¼ x 3½in (6 x 8.5cm) box, with white gold and diamonds opening clip, was inset to the top with an Imperial Russian 1st class medal for Zeal.

An intriguing provenance included the box having been given by the Shah of Iran to a prominent industrialist. It sold at a mid-estimate £13,000.