The critics hate it but the people love it


In December, 1988, the Jury's Hotel Group presented a piece of bronze sculpture to the city of Dublin. The gift was not received with universal approbation and, in certain quarters, has always excited absolute horror: it is the figure of Molly Malone designed by Jeanne Rynhart and now standing at the junction of Grafton and Suffolk streets.

Rynhart's work tends to be viewed with extreme distaste by many Irish artists, but it is her sculpture, more than any other, which has caught popular imagination. It is impossible to walk past Molly Malone, with its diminutive head and proportionately oversized breasts, and not notice the stream of tourists who wish to commemorate their visit to Dublin by being photographed next to the figure. Aesthetics play no part in their concerns; the reason for Molly Malone's popularity is that, like Copenhagen's Little Mermaid, she is an identifiable, if mythical, character. For many non-nationals, clearly, Molly is Dublin.

Whether Dublin's citizens care for it or not, Rynhart's Molly Malone is now among the most universally recognised features of the capital and has been widely reproduced in guidebooks and on postcards. The public, seemingly, prefers to make up its own mind on what is and what is not good art; in this instance, the popular consensus has placed Jeanne Rynhart's Molly Malone decisively in the former category.