When we look at statues commemorating the lives of famous – and infamous – people on streets across Europe, how often do we know about the sculptors behind the statues?
While it can be rare to find statues commemorating women, it can be even less common to find the work of female sculptors.
On the streets of Dublin, Ireland’s capital city, we find three examples of public art by female sculptors – let’s explore.
Molly Malone by Jeanne Rynhart
A popular folk song about Dublin has the refrain ‘In Dublin’s Fair City, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone’.
Molly Malone, a fictional character in the song, is a fish seller who sells cockles and mussels from her cart. The fictional Molly dies young from a fever, and is now commemorated with a statue in the centre of Dublin.
The statue – erected in 1988 to celebrate Dublin’s millennium as a city – is an artwork of sculptor Jeanne Rynhart. It originally was located near the busy shopping street Grafton Street but later moved nearer the city’s tourist office.
Rynhart was born in Dublin in 1946, and studied in both Dublin and Coventry in the UK. Returning to Ireland, she established a gallery and sculpture workshop.
Her artworks can also be found in other cities and towns in Ireland: a statue of Mary O’Connor (known as the ‘Rose of Tralee) in Tralee, Count Kerry, as well as two statues of Annie Moore – the first Irish immigrant to the United States – in Cobh, County Cork and at Ellis Island, New York. Rynhart died in June 2020.
1916 Memorial by Dora Sigerson Shorter
Glasnevin Cemetery in the north of Dublin is a large graveyard of 132 acres. It holds the graves and memorials of notable historic figures from the history of Ireland.
One such memorial commemorates the Easter 1916 Rising – a sculpture by artist Dora Sigerson Shorter.
The marble sculpture is housed in a structure made of Irish limestone, and shows a man at the feet of a female figure.
View this post on Instagram
Since it has proven one of the most popular sculptures featured in the last year, here’s another view of Dora Sigersen Shorter’s 1916 Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery. The figures are made from white Carrara marble with the canopy and base constructed with Irish limestone. The sculptor dedicated the last year of her life to the work and hoped for it to be placed over the graves of the executed Easter Rising leaders “when circumstances placed their ashes in Glasnevin”. Note the 1916 engraving at the top of the canopy. #glasnevincemetery #glasnevin #glasnevinmuseum #cemetery #irishcemetery #dorasigerson #dorasigersonshorter #irishsculpture #irishartist #womansculptor #womanartist #dublinireland #republicofireland #1916 #easterrising #dublin #irishhistory #irishhistoryandheritage #dublinheritage #limestonesculpture #carraramarble #limestone #marble #ireland #irish #irishrevolution #patrickpearse
View this post on Instagram
Post Number 150! To celebrate, here’s a beautiful white marble sculpture by Dublin artist, sculptor and writer Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918), located near the main entrance of Glasnevin Cemetery, next to @glasnevinmuseum. Sigerson designed this memorial to the Irish rebel dead of 1916 which stands at the center of her own tomb. To quote an article on stiffsandstones.blogspot.com: “The white Carrera marble statue is evocative of the Pieta, the depiction of Christ lying dead across his mother Mary's lap, which stands in the Basilica in Rome. The female figure in Sigerson's statue is Mother Ireland and lying across her lap is one of Ireland's lost warriors. The uniform of the warrior figure is clearly that of a 1916 rebel, and his face bears a striking resemblance to that of Pádraig Pearse, perhaps the best known of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising” . #glasnevin #glasnevincemetery #glasnevinmuseum #irishhistory #irishheritage #1916 #easterrising #dublinireland #northdublin #dublinnorth #dublinhistory #easterrising #dorasigerson #dorasigersonshorter #femalesculptor #femalesculptors #womansculptor #irishartist #irishliterature #irishsculptor #dublinart #dublin #easterrising1916 #marblestatue #marblesculpture #discoverdublin #discoverireland #lovedublin #lovindublin #ireland
Sigerson Shorter dedicated the memorial to the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising which had deeply affected her – so much so than when she died two years later, it was said she had ‘died of a broken heart’.
In addition to sculpture, Dora Sigerson Shorter was also a poet. On Europeana, you can read two anthologies of her poetry.
Father Mathew memorial by Mary Redmond
Several statues adorn Dublin’s main street O’Connell Street. A memorial to Father Mathew now stands in the shadow of the 120 metre high Spire of Dublin (moved from a previous location on the street).
The large sandstone statue commemorates Catholic priest Theobald Mathew who found and led teetotal societies in the nineteenth century, espousing abstinence from alcohol. At its height in the 1840s, the movement enrolled 3 million people – more than half the adult population of Ireland at the time. Today, streets, bridges, churches and more in Irish cities and town bear his name.
The statue on O’Connell Street, which was unveiled in the early 1890s, was the work of Dublin sculptor Mary Redmond who had won a competition to design the memorial.
Redmond had studied in Dublin and Rome and was known primarily for sculpting portraits and busts. In the same year her monumental statue of Father Mathew was unveiled, she married and moved first to London and subsequently to Florence.