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Sculptor reveals Highgate Cemetery’s latest death mask

Nick Reynolds has now completed free masks at the historic burial ground - including one of his Great Train Robbery father, Bruce

11 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

WHAT does an Iranian revolutionary who fought both the Shah and the Ayatollah, a Great Train Robber and the man who invented punk and the Sex Pistols have in common?

All three had their faces cast in bronze after their deaths to make striking headstones in Highgate Cemetery.

This week, a likeness known as a “death mask” of Iranian surgeon and political campaigner Dr Manuchehr Sabetian was unveiled at his grave. The historic burial ground is already home to masks of Bruce Reynolds, one of the gang who famously ambushed a train in 1963, and Malcolm McLaren. They are the work of Nick Reynolds, son of Bruce, who is also a musician in the band The Alabama Three.

He was commissioned to make one for Mr McLaren after the punk music promoter’s death in 2010.

The family of Dr Sabetian were aware of the masks and asked him to do one for them. Dr Sabetian was well known in Iran for his work against the Shah – and then the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mr Reynolds said: “The family had come to the cemetery to look at the plot when Dr Sabetian died six years ago. They saw the mask I had made of my Dad so they got in touch with me.”

Mr Reynolds took a cast of Dr Sabetian shortly after he died, and then began the process of casting it in bronze, sculpting the head to recreate the campaigner’s features.

Mr Reynolds added: “We mounted the head on a slab of granite from Iran that weighs in at one and a half tons.” A distinguished surgeon, Dr Sabetian was also committed to humanitarian work.

He campaigned for democracy and worked to free political prisoners, becoming a key figure in the Confederation of Iranian Students National Union and was the President of the Iranian PEN Association for many years, the group that represents writers and freedom of speech


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