Shelbourne Hotel statues restored to front of building

Sculptures had been removed following concerns they represented Nubian slaves

The Shelbourne Hotel Dublin has reinstalled four statues at the entrance. They had been removed in July in the belief that two of them were representations of slave women. Video: Ronan McGreevy Workers put the statues back on their pedestals

 

The owners of the Shelbourne Hotel have reinstalled four statues that were removed in the mistaken belief two of them were representations of slave women.

Workers put the statues back on their pedestals outside the front of the hotel overnight.

The statues, which have stood at the front of the hotel since 1867, have been restored, and several layers of paint and grime have been removed.

They were removed in July by hotel management, citing the Black Lives Matter movement and its focus on the legacy of slavery.

Hotel management believed two of the statues depicted Nubian slave princesses – Nubia being a rival kingdom to ancient Egypt. The other two statues represent Egyptian princesses.

The move prompted several complaints to the council that the facade of the hotel, which was restored in 2016, was a protected structure and the removal of the statues was a breach of planning permission.

The statues were originally designed and sculpted by Mathurin Moreau (1822-1912), son of another famous French sculptor, Jean-Baptiste-Louis-Joseph Moreau, and were cast in the Val d’Orsne foundry in Paris.

Art historian Kyle Leyden has said the original catalogue from which the four statues were ordered clearly label them not as slaves but as Egyptian and Nubian women. Mr Leyden said the architect who designed the Shelbourne facade, John McCurdy, would have ordered the statues from the catalogue, which was published in the late 1850s.

Dublin City Council sent an enforcement letter on July 29th giving hotel management four weeks to respond to the claims of an alleged planning breach. Hotel management were granted another four-week extension to respond to the allegation.

Kennedy Wilson commissioned University College Dublin art historian ProfPaula Murphy to examine the statues. An expert on sculpture, she concluded they were not depictions of slaves and advised on the clean-up operation.

The hotel owners said the restoration took time “due to the delicate conservation works required”.