Oscar comes out at last - within sight of home

 

Celebration and muted outrage greeted the unveiling of a new sculpture honouring the writer Oscar Wilde yesterday. The celebration was shared between Wilde and the sculptor, the Cork-based Danny Osborne; while the outrage was reserved for the fact that Wilde died 97 years ago and this is the first public statue erected in his memory. A group of writers, poets and artists, including Mr Seamus Heaney, Mr John Montague and Mr Pat Scott, along with interested Dubliners, stood on the north-west corner of Merrion Square, facing Wilde's former home at No 1 Merrion Square.

The response was one of unanimous approval. One gent admiring the statue said: "It's great, it makes a nice difference from all the effing bronze." The statue is unique, suitably original and colourful enough for a writer as singular as Wilde.

Executed in porcelain, bronze and coloured stones, including jade, pink Norwegian thulite and blue pearl granite, a life-size Wilde sits somewhat languidly, complete with Trinity tie, upon a massive piece of Wicklow quartz. Commissioned by Guinness Ireland, the sculpture cost £45,000. While the various colours, texture and extraordinarily realistic detail ensure that it is difficult to keep one's eyes off the work, Osborne's greatest achievement may well be Wilde's facial expression, a mixture of wry amusement and deep, almost stern sadness - depending on which angle one views it from. The powerful statue is flanked by two black granite plinths with bronzes representing art and life, the one depicting Dionysus; the other a figure of a pregnant woman, that of Constance, Oscar's wife, representing life. Both plinths are decorated with favourite Wildean quotes selected by artists, writers, politicians and other wellknown people. After Wilde's grandson, Mr Merlin Holland, had performed the unveiling of the statue, attention was drawn to one of the individual quotes adorning the pillar of life: ". . . that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky". This was the quotation from Wilde which most captivated one Charles J. Haughey on selecting it more than two years ago. Wilde had to wait almost a century.