'Head of Molly Malone' to go under hammer


WHO WILL buy a “spare head” for Dublin’s landmark Molly Malonestatue when it is auctioned next month at a value of up to €30,000?

It has emerged that two identical heads were prepared from the original mould for the bronze sculpture on Grafton Street 23 years ago in order to hedge against problems during casting. In the event both were cast successfully.

The “spare head” has been kept ever since in the Bantry, Co Cork, studio of the sculptress Jeanne Rynhart.

Fine Art auctioneers Mealy’s said that Rynhart had now decided to sell it “to free up space in her studio”, and it will go under the hammer next month with an estimate of €20,000 to €30,000.

Auctioneer George Gerard Mealy said this would be the sculptress’s “first foray into the Irish auction market”.

The Molly Malonestatue is one of the best known and most-photographed pieces of public art in Ireland and a popular sight for tourists. It was commissioned by Dublin City Council to celebrate Dublin’s millennium year in 1988, and was unveiled in December that year by then lord mayor Ben Briscoe. Rynhart sang the song Molly Malonewith The Dubliners during the celebrations.

The sculpture was controversial and The Irish Timesreported that it had attracted “a barrage of criticism”. Aosdána, an association of artists, declared it to be “entirely deficient in artistic point and merit”. There was criticism of the low-cut dress worn by the well-endowed Molly and the sculpture was nicknamed “The Tart With The Cart”. However, Rynhart defended her design and said the image was based on the figure and dress of a 17th century woman who was both a fishmonger and part-time prostitute who plied her trade “from the Liberties, along Dame Street, Trinity College, up residential Grafton Street, and on to the newly fashionable houses off St Stephen’s Green”.

She wrote to The Irish Times[on October 2nd, 1989] and explained that “Molly’s healthy diet of fish and strenuous daily exercise routine pushing approximately 3 cwt around would have assisted her development into a fine strong girl”. Rynhart further asserted that “breasts would not have shocked 17th century Dubliners – powdered milk was not in use and women’s appendages were the only means of ensuring the survival of the species past infancy”.

Her work also includes sculptures at Cobh, Co Cork, and in New York of Annie Moore – a 17-year-old Cork girl who was the first immigrant to the US “processed” at Ellis Island.

The “Head of Molly Malone” is one of a number of pieces by Rynhart included in Mealy’s Summer Fine and Decorative Art Sale in the saleroom at Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, on July 5th.